Economic Indicators | Jobs and Unemployment

Nearly six unemployed workers per available job

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The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) showed that job openings increased by 41,000 in May, although downward revisions to April data erased around half of those gains. Since the start of the recession in December 2007, job openings have dropped by 1.8 million, a decline of 42%.

Over this same period, the ranks of the unemployed swelled by 7 million to 14.5 million jobless workers, meaning that in May there were 12 million more unemployed workers than job openings – or 5.7 job seekers per available job (see Chart). The large increase in unemployed workers in May swamped the small gain in job openings, so the ratio of job seekers to job openings continued to climb sharply.

Although employment and unemployment numbers for June became available on July 2, JOLTS data are released with a one-month lag. Given last Friday’s announcement that the unemployed population increased in June by 218,000, along with the backsliding from May to June in the payroll survey, the ratio of job seekers to job opening most likely rose to more than 6 to 1 in June.

Unemployed workers are currently facing record high rates of long-term unemployment: in June 29% of the unemployed had been unemployed for more than six months. With nearly six times as many job seekers as available jobs, this number comes as no surprise.

Job seekers for each job opening


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