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Monthly Labor Review Online

September, 2000, Vol. 123, No. 9

Program Report

ArrowNew survey measures demand for labor 

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New survey measures demand for labor

For decades, the United States has had a strong economic indicator of labor supply— the unemployment rate. However, until now, there has been no parallel measure of labor demand. (The Bureau of Labor Statistics has collected turnover and job openings data, but not in a way that covered all States and industries in both the private and public sectors on an ongoing basis.) The BLS now has developed the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS), a new survey which measures job openings, hires, and separations. JOLTS information can help in assessing the state of the labor market and determining imbalances between the supply of and demand for labor. The data also can assist in detecting upward pressure on wages, and may even help predict an economic downturn. Presently, the only other widely available measure of labor demand is The Conference Board’s Help-Wanted Advertising Index, a measure of the number of job advertisements published in newspapers.

JOLTS collects counts of employment, job openings, hires, and three types of separations: quits (voluntary), layoffs and discharges (involuntary), and other separations. Employment data are collected for the pay period that includes the 12th of the month, job openings as of the last business day of the month, and turnover data (hires and separations) for the entire month. The standard JOLTS form is presented in exhibit 1.

Survey scope. The JOLTS sample is drawn from the BLS Longitudinal Database for the 50 States and the District of Columbia. All nonagricultural industries except private households are within the scope of JOLTS. Within agriculture, only agricultural services is included. In addition to private sector data, public sector data are collected from local, State, and Federal governments.

Sample design and rotation. The JOLTS sample includes 16,000 establishments, divided into one virtual certainty panel and 18 noncertainty panels. A virtual certainty panel is one in which establishments have been selected with nearly 100 percent probability, and they will remain in the sample throughout the course of the survey or until a new JOLTS sample is selected. Each noncertainty panel, when combined with the virtual certainty panel, represents the entire universe. One noncertainty panel is enrolled in the survey each month, meaning that after 18 months, all of the noncertainty panels will be enrolled. The virtual certainty panel was completed over a 5-month period. After 18 months in the survey, one noncertainty panel will be rolled out of the sample each month and replaced by a new noncertainty panel.

Data collection. The data are collected by the BLS regional office in Atlanta, Georgia. Sample units are enrolled in the survey by telephone, and then the data are collected via computer assisted telephone interviewing (CATI) for 6 months. After 6 months of CATI collection, respondents are moved to touchtone data entry (TDE) for the remainder of their time in the sample (generally another 12 months). In exceptional circumstances, units may remain in CATI for their entire collection period, or may choose to provide their data via fax. In addition, some units may elect to mail their data on paper or through alternate media.

Address refinement and enrollment of establishments into the JOLTS sample take place immediately prior to the end of the reference month. Data collection occurs as soon as the reference month is over.

Published estimates. JOLTS estimates will include both rates and numbers for job openings and labor turnover. 

Top-level estimates, that is, estimates that include all industries and all ownerships (private industries and Federal, State, and local governments) are available for the Nation as a whole, and for four census regions (North East, Midwest, South East, and West).1 The national estimates are further broken out into public or private sector; the national private sector estimates are further subdivided into nine combined sectors. All estimates are based on the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS).

While there is a great deal of interest in job openings data by occupation, wage level, and finer industry and geographic detail, the present sample does not support such estimates.

After the full sample has been introduced in late 2001, JOLTS estimates will be released to the public. A press release will provide preliminary estimates for the current reference month and final estimates for the prior reference month. An annual bulletin also is planned. Additional information regarding JOLTS is available on the BLS website at www.bls.gov, via e-mail to JOLTSINFO@bls.gov, or by telephone at (202) 691–5870.


Communications regarding the Monthly Labor Review may be sent to the Editor-in-Chief at 2 Massachusetts Avenue NE, Room 2850, Washington, DC, 20212, or faxed to (202) 691–7890.


1 The regions are:

North East—Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont;

Midwest—Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin;

South East—Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia;

West—Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.

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