Economic Indicators | Jobs and Unemployment

Minimal improvement in job-finding prospects

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Today’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the number of job openings increased by 225,000 in September to 3.4 million.  The total number of unemployed workers in September was 14.0 million (unemployment data come from the Current Population Survey). Therefore the ratio of unemployed workers to job openings was 4.2-to-1 in September, an improvement from the August ratio of 4.5-to-1.

By comparison, in December 2000 the job-seeker’s ratio was 1.1-to-1. Furthermore, the highest this ratio ever got in the early 2000s’ downturn was 2.8-to-1. September marks just over three years in a row that the job-seeker’s ratio has been at or above 3-to-1. Put another way:  We’ve been above the highest level of job seekers to jobs reached in the early 2000s’ recession for the last three years. And we’ve been substantially above 4-to-1 for the last two years and nine months. A job-seeker’s ratio of more than 4-to-1 means that for more than three out of four unemployed workers, there simply are no jobs. Because the job-seekers ratio has been above 4-to-1 for this long—two years and nine months or 143 weeks—the extended unemployment insurance benefits, which last a maximum of 99 weeks, remain crucial.

With the Congressional Budget Office projecting an unemployment rate of 8.5 percent at the end of next year, the extension of federally funded unemployment insurance benefit extensions through 2012 would extend a lifeline to the families of millions of long-term unemployed workers, and generate spending that would support well over half a million jobs.  For more details, see this EPI Issue Brief by Heidi Shierholz and Lawrence Mishel.

With research assistance from Nicholas Finio and Hilary Wething

See more work by Elise Gould