Comparing Job Openings to Job Seekers

By Donald Sears  |  Posted 2009-05-12 Print this article Print

The Economic Policy Institute, a non-profit think-tank based in Washington, D.C., has a recent blog that gives some eye-opening perspective on the ratio of unemployed workers to the number of job openings.

Here is the key finding from the post:

At the same time that job openings have been declining, more and more workers have been losing their jobs. In March, there were 13.2 million unemployed workers, which translates into 4.8 unemployed workers for every available job. To put that ratio in perspective it helps to compare it to the start of the recession when there were 1.7 unemployed workers per job opening, or to December 2000 (the first month of the JOLTS series), when there were 1.1 unemployed workers per job opening.

That's close to five job seekers for every job opening. Woh. That's a whole lot of job seekers clamoring for whatever happens to be available.

EPI, whose leaders include former Clinton-era labor secretary Robert Reich, bases its numbers on information taken from the U.S. government's Bureau of Labor Statistics. JOLTS is an acronym for Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey--a report from the Bueau of Labor Statistics. Here's how the BLS in the JOLTS report puts it:

The number of job openings has trended downward since mid- 2007, and, at 2.7 million in March, monthly openings were down 2.1 million, or 44 percent, since the most recent high point in June 2007.

Statistically, these numbers really represent what appears to be a pretty bad scenario for many people. Competition for jobs is fierce and the numbers aren't getting better.

But what about the number of people getting hired? A recent article in the New York Times talked about the fact that people are getting hired for jobs, though not necessarily the kind of high-paying jobs many in IT and technology are used to. From the NYT article: "So, while 4.8 million workers were laid off or chose to leave their jobs in February, employers across the country hired 4.3 million workers that month, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics."

Ok, point taken. Hiring is occuring.

But as another blog from the EPI (Light at the end of the tunnel ... for whom?) discussses:

One more statistic that is often not addressed in jobs data reports, is wages. The real incomes of middle-class families have traditionally grown over the course of a business cycle but recent statistics show that many workers are challenged to increase their earning power even in the good times, when the economy is robust and they have jobs. At the end of the latest business cycle in 2007, for the first time since the Census Bureau began tracking this sort of data, the real incomes of middle-class families were lower than when the business cycle started out six years earlier.

It's the old quality versus quantity argument. Some are getting hired, but at what level job and wage? |

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