• Join your peers at SSTI's 2024 Annual Conference!

    Join us December 10-12 in Arizona to connect with and learn from your peers working around the country to strengthen their regional innovation economies. Visit ssticonference.org for more information and to register today.

  • Become an SSTI Member

    As the most comprehensive resource available for those involved in technology-based economic development, SSTI offers the services that are needed to help build tech-based economies.  Learn more about membership...

  • Subscribe to the SSTI Weekly Digest

    Each week, the SSTI Weekly Digest delivers the latest breaking news and expert analysis of critical issues affecting the tech-based economic development community. Subscribe today!

JOLTS data metrics: a look at the long-term trends

May 25, 2023
By: Conor Gowder

A new data analysis of the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) by SSTI indicates again the significant impact the pandemic had on the manufacturing sector. While job openings in manufacturing ranged on a monthly basis from 0.8 to 3.9% of total manufacturing employment in the 20 years prior to the pandemic, it jumped to as much as 7.4% in April 2022. Job openings in manufacturing increased dramatically after the pandemic, presumably as a result of the American economy attempting to adjust for disrupted supply chains and a move to bring more manufacturing back to the U.S. Only education and health services, leisure and hospitality, and professional and business services had job opening rates consistently higher.  For the economy as a whole, a review of the JOLTS data finds the number of job openings is still significantly higher than pre-covid levels, but is on a decreasing trend.  

During periods of recession, when the economy contracts, employers typically decrease job openings, slow hiring and increase separations. After a recession, job openings have consistently risen, albeit at varying rates, due to several factors such as employers needing to replace workers who were laid off during the recession, the growth of new businesses and the expansion of existing businesses.

JOLTS provides data on job openings, hires and separations which serve as indicators of labor shortages and provide valuable insight into long-term trends. The JOLTS program contains data since December 2000, and updates monthly; SSTI explored the three major JOLTS metrics across the current lifespan of the dataset with a focus on long-term trends.

The above figure shows the rate of each of the three key JOLTS metrics: Job Openings, Hires and Total Separations; the following trends can be viewed in the above figure by selecting their respective tabs under the title.

Job openings — defined by JOLTS as the total number of positions open on the last business day of a respective month that meet a set of three criteria — have experienced fairly consistent month-over-month growths since the Great Recession, as well as a dip followed by an extremely large spike after recovery from the COVID-19 Recession began. The number of job openings is still significantly higher than pre-covid levels, but is on a decreasing trend.

Hires followed a somewhat similar trend to job openings, slowing during recessionary periods before steadily rising over time. The major exception to this was the speed of recovery after a sharp decrease at the onset of the pandemic, followed by a spike in hires before returning to somewhat normal levels– a trend that will need more time and data to fully flush out.

Total separations followed the most unique trend of the three major JOLTS metrics, having stayed relatively consistent, then nearly tripling at the onset of the pandemic for a brief two months before returning to relatively normal levels.

The JOLTS program also provides data on national-level trends across a set of nonfarm industries, both private and governmental. The graphic below shows the rate of each key JOLTS metric (adjustable via the controls under the title), which can be customized to show one or more industry at a time by typing in the search bar labeled “Enter series to show.”


Recessions can have a significant impact on many different industries, with some affected more than others. Industries like leisure and hospitality (which include entertainment, recreation and food services), as well as capital-heavy industries such as manufacturing are typically the most impacted by normal recessions.

However, the COVID-19 Recession was not a “normal” recession  due to the nature of being pandemic-induced, which is clearly reflected in the above graphic through its sharp drops followed by quick spikes across the various metrics.

The data reflects the differences between each industry. For example, the leisure and hospitality industry experienced the largest spike in total separations of the provided industries, but then experienced yet another spike around half a year later; the financial activities, construction and, mining and logging industries among others experienced several spikes in both hires and total separations across the entire span of JOLTS data. More trends like these can be explored in the above graphic.

Click here for the data used in this article.


jobs, labor force, useful stats