While unemployment and the number of job openings remained relatively flat this month, the number of quits was at its highest rate since December 2007, the first month of the recession.
Job openings rose to 5.6 million in December and the job openings rate was 3.8 percent. The number of job openings increased in December for total private and was little changed for government. In the regions, job openings increased in the West.
The number of job openings increased over the last 12 months for total nonfarm and total private, and edged up for government. The number of job openings increased over the year in the Northeast, Midwest and West regions.
The number of hires was 5.4 million in December, little changed from November but is higher than in December 2007, when they were at 5.0 million.
Over the 12 months ending in December, the number of hires was little changed for total nonfarm and total private, and edged up for government. The number of hires was little changed for all regions.
There were 5.1 million total separations in December, little changed from November, and the separations rate was 3.5 percent. Among separations, there were 3.1 million quits in December, up from November, and the quits rate was 2.1 percent. The number of quits is now higher than in December 2007, when they were at 2.8 million.
The number of quits increased over the 12 months ending in December for total nonfarm, private and government. In the regions, quits increased in the South and Midwest.
Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 151,000 in January. The number of unemployed persons and the unemployment rate were both little changed, at 7.8 million and 4.9 percent, respectively.
Over the past 12 months, the number of unemployed persons and the unemployment rate were down by 1.1 million and 0.8 percentage points, respectively.
The number of long-term unemployed was essentially unchanged at 2.1 million in January, and has shown little movement since June. These individuals accounted for 26.9 percent of the unemployed.
The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons was little changed at 6.0 million in January but was down by 796,000 over the year.
In January, 2.1 million persons were marginally attached to the labor force, essentially unchanged from the previous year. Among the marginally attached, there were 623,000 discouraged workers in January, essentially unchanged from January 2014.
NFIB small business optimism
The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index fell 1.3 points to 93.9 in January.
Reported job creation improved in January, with the average employment gain per firm rising to 0.11 workers per firm, up from a net negative 0.07 workers in December. Twelve percent reported increasing employment an average of 2.8 workers per firm, down 1 point, while 11 percent reported reducing employment at an average of 3.9 workers per firm, also down 1 point.
Fifty-two percent reported hiring or trying to hire, down 3 points, but 45 percent reported few or no qualified applicants for the positions they were tying to fill. The percent of owners citing the difficulty of finding qualified workers as their Single Most Important Business Problem was unchanged at 15 percent, number 3 on the list of problems behind taxes and regulations and red tape, the highest reading since 2007.
Twenty-nine percent of all owners reported job openings they could not fill in the current period, up 1 point and at the highest level for this expansion. This is a solid reading historically and is suggestive of a reduction in the unemployment rate.
The net percent of all owners, seasonally adjusted, reporting higher nominal sales in the past three months – compared to the prior three months – fell 2 points to a net negative 7 percent. Twelve percent cited weak sales as their top business problem, up 1 point. Expected real sales volumes posted a loss of 4 points, falling to a seasonally adjusted net 3 percent of owners expecting gains. This is well below the average reading of 14 points from the first four months of 2015.