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Handbook of Methods Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey Concepts

Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey : Concepts

The following are definitions of the key concepts used to produce the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) estimates and publications.

JOLTS data elements include job openings, hires, and separations. The components of separations include quits, layoffs and discharges, and other separations. Although employment is not a published JOLTS data element, it is collected to compare against reported data as a quality control measure. The JOLTS program uses the same definition of employment as the Current Employment Statistics (CES) program.

Employment includes persons on the payroll who worked or received pay for any part of the pay period that includes the 12th day of the reference month. Full-time, part-time, permanent, short-term, seasonal, salaried, and hourly employees are included, as are employees on paid vacation or other paid leave. Persons on establishment payrolls who are on paid sick leave (for cases in which pay is received directly from the firm), on paid holiday, or on paid vacation, or who work during a part of the pay period—even though they are unemployed or on strike during the rest of the period—are counted as employed. Salaried officers of corporations are included. 

Government employment covers only civilian employees. Military personnel are excluded. Employees of the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, the National Imagery and Mapping Agency, and the Defense Intelligence Agency are also excluded.

Additional exclusions include sole proprietors, the unincorporated self-employed, unpaid volunteer or family workers, farm workers, and domestic workers. Proprietors, or partners of unincorporated self-employed businesses, unpaid volunteer or family workers, farm workers, and domestic workers. Persons who are on layoff, on leave without pay, or on strike for the entire period, or who were hired but have not yet reported during the period are excluded.

Employees of temporary help agencies, employee leasing companies, outside contractors, and consultants are counted by their employer of record, not by the establishment where they are working.

Job openings includes all positions that are open on the last business day of the refer­ence month. A job is open only if it meets all three of these conditions:

  • A specific position exists and there is work available for that position. The position can be full-time or part-time, and it can be permanent, short-term, or seasonal.

  • The job could start within 30 days, whether or not the employer can find a suitable candidate during that time.

  • The employer is actively recruiting workers from outside the establishment to fill the position. Active recruiting means that the establishment is taking steps to fill a position. It may include advertising in newpapers, on television, or on the radio; posting internet notices, posting “help wanted” signs, networking or making word-of-mouth announcements; accepting applications; interviewing candidates; contacting employment agencies; or soliciting employees at job fairs, state or local employment offices, or similar sources.

Excluded are positions open only to internal transfers, promotions or demotions, or recall from layoffs. Also excluded are positions with start dates more than 30 days in the future, positions for which employees have been hired but not yet reported for work, and positions to be filled by employees of temporary help agencies, employee leasing companies, outside contractors, or consultants.

Hires include all additions to the payroll during the entire reference month, including new and rehired employees; full-time and part-time employees, per­manent, short-term, and seasonal employees; employees who were re­called to a job at the location following a layoff (formal suspension from pay status) lasting more than 7 days; on-call or inter­mittent employees who returned to work after having been formally separated; workers who were hired and separated during the month, and transfers from other locations.

Excluded are transfers or promotions within the reporting location, employees returning from strike, employees of temporary help agencies, employee leasing companies, outside contractors, or consultants.

Separations include all separations from the payroll during the entire reference month and are reported by type of separation: quits, layoffs and discharges, and other separations.

Quits include employees who left voluntarily with the exception of retirements or transfers to other locations.

Layoffs and discharges include involuntary separations initiated by the employer including layoffs with no intent to rehire; layoffs (formal suspension from pay status) lasting or expected to last more than 7 days; discharges resulting from mergers, downsizing, or closings; firings or other discharges for cause; terminations of permanent or short-term employees; and terminations of seasonal employees (whether or not they are expected to return the next season).

Other separations include retirements, transfers to other locations, separations due to disability and deaths.

Transfers within the same location, employees on strike, employees of temporary help agencies, employee leasing companies, and outside contractors (consultants) are excluded from other separations.

Industry Classifications used by the JOLTS program are in accordance with the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). To ensure the highest possible quality of data, state workforce agencies verify the industry code, location, and ownership classification of all establishments. Verification and updating of the NAICS classifications are done on a 3-year cycle.

Size classes: The maximum employment of the establishment over the last 12 months is used to determine the size class at the time of sample selection. This classification stays fixed for a year until the next annual sample is drawn.

Size Employees













An establishment is an economic unit, such as a factory, mine, store, or office, that produces goods or services. An establishment is generally a single physical location where business is conducted or where services or industrial operations are performed. There are cases where distinct and separate economic activities are performed at a single physical location, for example, gift shops in a hotel. These gift shops, operated out of the same physical location as the hotel, are identified as separate establishments and classified in retail trade while the hotel is classified in accommodation and food services. In such cases, each activity is treated as a separate establishment provided the following conditions: no one industry description in the classification includes such combined activities; separate reports can be prepared on the number of employees, their wages and salaries, sales or receipts, and expenses; and employment and output are significant for both activities.

Last Modified Date: October 19, 2022