Lots of available jobs, still no higher wages

August 12, 2014

Job openings in the US economy are at a 13-year high. The monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary (JOLTS) report was released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics today. It shows there were  4.67 million job openings in the month of June, up just a tad from the 4.6 million openings reported in May — it’s now the highest the job openings figure has been since February 2001.

St. Louis Fed

The separations rate is unchanged at 3.3 percent. Within that category, quits and discharge rates were also unchanged, at 1.8 percent and 1.2 percent, respectively. Bill McBride at Calculated Risk charts the updated data, breaking out quits and layoffs in addition to hires and job openings:

Bill McBride/Calculated Risk

McBride notes that quits — meaning people left voluntarily — are up 15 percent year-over-year. More people are quitting voluntarily as more jobs are becoming available. Theoretically, this means wages should be going up (which we haven’t seen yet). The Bespoke blog does a little analysis about what this means:

Until businesses are willing to pay more for the marginal employee, there is a limit to how much quit rates can go up and job openings can come down.  This is bad news for the average American, as they won’t see their incomes rise.  What is bad news for the average American, though, is good news for inflation.  Until wages increase, in order to lure labor off the sidelines or out of their current job into one of the open positions that keep piling up, inflation should remain low.

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