What Is JOLTS?

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JOLTS stands for the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, which is conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) each month. The survey includes information on job openings and labor turnover data, which is used by economists, government officials, and data analysts. A random sample of 21,000 private, nonagricultural businesses are surveyed.

Key Takeaways

  • JOLTS is a monthly survey conducted by the BLS to measure job openings, hires, and separations.
  • Unlike the unemployment rate that measures the supply side of the labor market, JOLTS data helps estimate the demand for labor.
  • JOLTS data is used by economists, data analysts, and government officials to form many commonly used ratios and correlations.

How JOLTS Works

Understanding the demand side of labor shows the flow of workers in and out of the labor market. Using JOLTS data is different than using the unemployment rate to examine the U.S. labor market because JOLTS measures the excess supply of labor.

Data is collected from a sample of employers each month. This sample comes from a database of about 9.1 million businesses that provide a good or service. This can include factories, mines, stores, or offices.


The industries included are any nonagricultural business as well as federal and local government entities in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Agriculture, forestry, fishing, and private households are not included.

JOLTS collects a number of data points from these businesses.

The first is job openings, which counts the number of unfilled jobs on the last business day of the month. To count as a job opening, the role must meet three conditions: The position must exist and work must be available for it; the job could begin in 30 days; and the establishment must be actively recruiting workers from outside its location.

Businesses surveyed also report the number of newly hired employees as well as separations, which include quits, layoffs, discharges, death, and disability.

These criteria exist to understand the current unmet demand for labor.  Estimates are summarized in a monthly JOLTS report. This data is available by region and industry, but not by occupation. Occupational data is collected through the Current Population Survey.

Using JOLTS To Measure Labor Market ‘Tightness’

A measurement that is commonly used by economists to measure tightness in the labor market is the vacancies-to-unemployment ratio. This measure divides the number of vacancies (provided in the JOLTS) by the number of unemployed workers. If the ratio is 2-to-1, this means there are two vacancies for every unemployed worker. This would signal a very high amount of job openings compared to workers who are unemployed and looking for jobs.


The historical V/U ratio is about 0.7 since 2000, but has been closer to 2 after the pandemic.

JOLTS data is also commonly used to show the correlation between the job openings rate and the unemployment rate. As the unemployment rate falls, there is a strong chance that the job openings rate will rise. Plotting these on a chart together forms the Beveridge Curve.

This curve got a lot of attention during 2020 and 2021 as it shifted in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The relationship between the job openings rate and unemployment rate was a bit weaker than in prior time periods, making it a great example of how JOLTS data can be useful to show how demand for labor has changed over time.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What does JOLTS stand for?

JOLTS stands for the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This survey is conducted and reported monthly.

What is labor market churn per JOLTS?

Labor market churn refers to the pace of the reallocation of workers and jobs. A high-churn labor market means workers cycle through different jobs or between employment and unemployment at a high pace.

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The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) Estimates by Establishment Size Class.”

  2. Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. “Is the Labor Market as Tight as It Seems?

  3. Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. “What Does the Beveridge Curve Tell Us about the Labor Market Recovery?

  4. Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond. “High Labor Market Churn During the 2020 Recession.”

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