Is It a Job Seeker’s Market? The State of Employment in 7 Charts

Is It a Job Seeker’s Market? The State of Employment in 7 Charts

Mike Roberts

Every month we like to dig into the data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics  (BLS). Specifically, we’re interested in the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS). This program produces data on job openings, hires, and separations. Employers can use this data to gauge the current state of employment and the market for candidates.

Let’s get right into the latest data from August 2016.

Job Openings Trend Upward

The data from August 2016 showed 5.4 million job openings, a slight decrease of 388,000 from July. But since the low of 2.1 million in July 2009, the number of job openings continues to steadily trend upward, surpassing pre-recession levels.

Job Openings Level Through August 2016

job openings rate 2016
Another way to look at this data is by the job openings rate, which is computed by dividing the number of job openings by the sum of employment and job openings and multiplying that quotient by 100. The job openings rate was 3.6% in August.

Job Openings Rate Through August 2016

job openings rate 2016
As job openings remain high compared to previous years, this could be a variable of more power shifting into the hands of both passive and active candidates.

Many skilled candidates are benefiting from the increased options, as well as the ability to raise their salary by taking a new job. The upward trending job openings rate could also be a sign of hesitant decision-making by employers.

As a complement to the chart above, we’ve seen the median vacancy duration or time to fill of jobs increasing in recent years.

Median Vacancy Duration Through August 2016

time to fill increasing
More info on time to fill can be found here.

Employers are taking more time to fill positions, with this metric reaching several all-time highs since the recession.

The Hires Rate Has Changed Little

The total number of hires reached 5.2 million in August, showing not much of a change in comparison to July. In fact, this number has shown little volatility on average since January 2015. The hires rate is computed by dividing the number of hires by employment and multiplying that quotient by 100.

hires rate 2016
Overall Separations Consistent (While the Quits Rate Trends Upward)

Total separations has a number of variables: quits, layoffs and discharges, and other separations. You can also think of total separations as turnover. Overall, there were 5 million total separations in August. This number has changed little since January 2015.

Total Separations Rate Through August 2016

total separations rate 2016
The number of quits was virtually unchanged in August compared to July. However, when we look at historical data, the trend is upward since the recession. It’s important to remember that economists consider quits to be “generally voluntary separations initiated by the employee,” and “therefore, the quits rate can serve as a measure of workers’ willingness or ability to leave jobs.” Some say this is a good sign for economic and job market health.

Quits Rate Through August 2016

quits rate 2016
The generally rising quits rate supports the argument that we’re in a candidate-driven job market. At a time when job openings are trending up and to the right, job seekers are no doubt taking advantage.

Layoffs and Discharges Rate Through August 2016

layoffs and discharges rate 2016
Finally, the layoffs and discharges rate decreased in August to 1.1%. For years, this rate has been teetering on 1.2%.

With fairly even month-over-month total separations, clearly, any surge in job openings is not being driven by these variables.

Surviving the Candidate-Driven Job Market

If you’re having difficulty hiring the right candidates in today’s dynamic market, zeroing in on the exact cause could be a challenge. For instance, the concept of candidate experience typically covers sourcing and attracting job seekers through interviewing, extending an offer, hiring, and onboarding. You’ll have to identify your weak points, and then invest in resolving them.

To get the conversation going, here are a few questions to ask your team:

Sourcing: Do job seekers perceive us as a good place to work (a.k.a. how strong is our employer brand)? Are our jobs easily discoverable on Google? Are we putting enough effort into our job descriptions? Can passive candidates opt-into job alerts? Can mobile-only candidates apply from their smartphones? Are we doing enough to drive people to our career site? Are there other areas off of our career site we could be investing in to attract job seekers?

Interviewing: Have we trained hiring managers on interviewing best practices? Are we making the interview process easy enough for the right candidates? How long is our interview process in comparison to the industry average? Are we asking for any feedback on our interviewing process?

Hiring: How long are we taking to extend an offer? Are we offering the right compensation? When was the last time we audited our benefits? Why aren’t people accepting our jobs?

As you can see, this list of questions could go on for quite some time. The important thing is to start asking them now. Get proactive. Candidates are likely only going to become more discerning at this rate.

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