Job Openings Remain Stable; Federal Deficit Continues to Shrink

There were 4 million job openings on the last business day of January, little changed from December. The federal budget deficit went down by $115 billion compared to last year.

There were 4 million job openings on the last business day of January, little changed from December, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Tuesday in its Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, also known as JOLTS. Stability in the number of job openings was true both of private and public employment. The number of openings was up in industries such as healthcare and entertainment, but dropping in others, such as retail.

Large numbers of hires and separations occur every month throughout the business cycle. When the number of hires exceeds the number of separations, employment rises, even if the hires level is steady or declining. Conversely, when the number of hires is less than the number of separations, employment declines. Over the 12 months ending in January 2014, hires totaled 54.3 million while separations totaled 52.1 million, yielding a net employment gain of 2.2 million.

The BLS also reported the quits rate. Quits are generally voluntary separations initiated by the employee, so the quits rate is an indirect indicator of workers’ willingness or ability to leave jobs. The number of quits was little changed over the 12 months ending in January for total employment, including both private places of work as well as government.

Federal Deficit Continues to Shrink 

The federal government ran a budget deficit of $379 billion for the first five months of fiscal year 2014 (which began on Oct. 1, 2013), the Congressional Budget Office reported on Tuesday. That’s $115 billion less than the shortfall recorded in the same span last year, because revenues are higher and outlays are lower than they were at this time a year ago.

Moreover, the nonpartisan agency added, without shifts in the timing of certain payments (which otherwise would have fallen on a weekend), the deficit for the five-month period would have been $148 billion less this year than it was in fiscal year 2013. Also, the federal government incurred a deficit of $195 billion in February 2014, the CBO estimates—$9 billion less than the $204 billion deficit of February 2013.

Because March 1 and February 1 both fell on a weekend in 2014, certain payments that ordinarily would have been made in March this year were made in February, while other payments that would have been made in February were made in January. Without those shifts in the timing of payments, the deficit in February 2014 would have been $1 billion larger than it was.

Wall Street had a down day on Tuesday – off the record highs of last week – with the Dow Jones Industrial Average losing 67.43 points, or 0.41 percent. The S&P 500 was down 0.51 percent and the Nasdaq declined 0.63 percent.