What Quitting and Hiring Say About the Economy, Genuine Parts, and UnitedHealth Group

Employees are quitting their jobs at the highest level since pre-recession days, and employers like Genuine Parts and United Healthcare are leading the way in hiring new workers. What do these trends tell us about the future?

Feb 18, 2014 at 5:14PM

"Take this job and shove it!" Johnny Paycheck bellowed in 1977.

It now appears that more American workers are singing the same refrain to their employers.

According to recent jobs data by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the "quit rate" increased to 1.8% in November of 2013, the highest it has reached since before the recession. The rate bottomed out at 1.2% in 2009.

Before the recession, the quit rate averaged around 2.1% from 2000 to 2006.

So what?
So what does this tell us about the markets in general?

Well, workers are throwing off their fears of a constricted job market and getting their swagger back. The confidence to tell your boss "so long" usually comes from the fact that you have a new job or feel relatively confident that you can find one.

Although the uptick was slight on a month-to-month basis, it indicates some level of optimism about employment now and in the future. That's a good sign for the economy and companies across the board.

Who's hiring?
The people who have to go somewhere, so let's look at who's hiring. Last week, AOL Jobs, in partnership with Careerbuilder.com, reported the top 10 companies hiring as of the week of Feb. 14. 

Three private companies made the top 10, while seven public companies made the list either directly or through a subsidiary. NAPA, a subsidiary of Genuine Parts (NYSE:GPC), ranked No. 1 with 5,213 part-time openings, while UnitedHealth Group (NYSE:UNH) came in at No. 7 with 2,333 job openings. AT&T, CVS Caremark, Verizon subsidiary Verizon Wireless, RBS Citizens Financial Group, and Chipotle Mexican Grill also made the top 10.

Consider these healthy companies
Of course, having job openings doesn't necessarily mean you've got a great business, but it does show you're poised for growth. So let's dig a little deeper into two of the publicly traded companies and see how they're performing in other areas.

Genuine Parts
Genuine Parts recently acquired three new companies, which are projected to add $235 million in annual revenue. These include CSI, a Canada-based distributor of industrial supplies such as bearing and power-transmission products that is expected to generate $100 million in revenue; Electro-Wire, a distributor and manufacturer of wire and cable products that is also predicted to bring in $100 million; and assets of GCN, a regional wholesale distributor of food service disposables and janitorial and cleaning supplies that is estimated to bring in around $35 million.

For the most recent 12 months, Genuine Parts generated $13.68 billion in revenue. These additions should up Genuine Parts' revenue by about 1.7% per year.

Over the last five years, Genuine Parts' EPS has grown annually at 6.8%, revenue has increased yearly at 3.7%, and its dividend has averaged a growth rate of 6.3% per year. 

Genuine Parts' consistent, if unspectacular growth makes it a good long-term play.

UnitedHealth Group
UnitedHealth Group leads all health insurance providers with more than 75 million enrollees. It will face some challenges during the next year, however. The Congressional Budget Office recently downgraded its initial Affordable Care Act and Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Plan projections by 2 million, and competition is stiff in this highly fragmented market.

S&P Capital IQ recently dropped the company's stock from a "buy" to a "hold" due to the 2 million decrease, as well as its expectation of lower membership rates and rate cuts in the Medicare Advantage program that will have a negative impact on UnitedHealth.

The company has had an impressive five-year run, however, growing EPS by 18% a year, revenue by 8.6% per annum, and dividends by a whopping 103.7% on average for the five-year period. The dividend growth rate is 37.5% over the last three years. UnitedHealth Group is also one of the few companies in its industry to pay dividends. 
 
It's not time to bail on the high-performer, but expect some increased volatility given the radical changes taking place in the health care system. UnitedHealth Group should not lose its position as top dog among health insurers, but its growth may slow as competitors and systemic changes in health care converge to eat away at its operating margins and market share.

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Chris Brantley has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends UnitedHealth Group. The Motley Fool owns shares of PNC Financial Services. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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