Having spent much of the winter touting an incipient recovery, I would love to agree with the Wall Street Journal that this week’s JOLTS data showing an increase in the number of Americans quitting their job is a positive datapoint to offset the disappointing March jobs information. And the logic is impeccable. When the labor market is weak, people don’t quite their jobs. When quits go up, it’s a sign the labor market is getting stronger.
But here’s the problem. What the BLS released today was quits data from February. We don’t need hints about the labor market conditions in February. We already know that February was a solid month for job growth. Not only was it solid, it followed solid data from December and January and led to hopes that March would show acceleration. But it didn’t. The March numbers came in and showed a slowing pace of employment growth. Then after that disappointment we got a different statistical angle on February’s good news.