© 2024 Texas Public Radio
Real. Reliable. Texas Public Radio.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

4.2 Million Americans Were Hired In January (And 4.1 Million Quit Or Got Fired)

One jobs number gets all the attention: The number of jobs lost or gained in the previous month.

That number is important. But focusing too much on the net change in jobs can be misleading. It gives the impression that a job is like a widget — it's something that gets made in a factory somewhere, and that we hope exists forever.

That's not how it works. Even in good economic times ,new jobs are constantly being created and old jobs are constantly being destroyed. (Of course, you do want the number of jobs created to exceed the number of jobs destroyed.)

There's a little-known jobs report that shows all this creation and destruction. It's called the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, though it typically goes by the catchy acronym JOLTS.

The latest JOLTS report came out this morning, and it showed that 4.25 million people got new jobs in January, and 4.1 million quit or got fired. In other words, every 1.6 seconds, some one got a job and someone else left a job.

The report also breaks down how different industries and regions fared. Construction added more jobs than it lost; manufacturing lost more jobs than it added. The South added more than it lost; the Northeast lost more than it added.

It's a reminder that the U.S. really isn't a single economy that's either doing well or doing badly; it's lots and lots of little economies, some of which are coming back, and some of which are still struggling.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Adam Davidson is a contributor to Planet Money, a co-production of NPR and This American Life. He also writes the weekly "It's the Economy" column for the New York Times Magazine.