The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) data released this morning by the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that job openings increased by 60,000 in January, bringing the total number of job openings to 4.0 million. In January, the number of job seekers was 10.2 million (unemployment data are from the Current Population Survey). Thus, there were 10.2 million job seekers and only 4.0 million job openings, meaning that more than 60 percent of job seekers were not going to find a job in January no matter what they did. In a labor market with strong job opportunities, there would be roughly as many job openings as job seekers.
In her analysis, EPI Economist Heidi Shierholz notes the importance of examining the hires rate—the share of total employment accounted for by new hires—when assessing the relative strength of job opportunities over time. “The hires rate fell dramatically in the Great Recession, saw some very modest improvement between the middle of 2009 and early 2012, but has made no sustained improvement since February 2012, nearly two years ago,” explains Shierholz. “This demonstrates how tough it remains for job seekers to find job opportunities, and how long they have endured these long odds.”