Economic Indicators | Jobs and Unemployment

Less than one job opening for every five job seekers

June 9, 2009

Less than one job opening for every five job seekers

by Heidi Shierholz

At the start of the recession in December 2007, there were 4.4 million job openings, but that number has declined dramatically. This morning’s data release by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that in April job openings declined 102,000 to 2.5 million, a drop of over 42% since the start of the recession.

The decline in job openings is occurring as more and more workers are losing their jobs, meaning that the prospects for finding a job once unemployed are worsening. There were 13.7 million unemployed workers in April, which means there were 5.4 unemployed workers for every available job. At the start of the recession, an unemployed worker had a much better chance of finding a job, with only 1.7 job seekers per job opening, but the line of applicants waiting for each job is now three times longer.

Although employment and unemployment numbers for May became available last Friday, these Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) data are released with a one-month lag. Given last Friday’s announcement that unemployment increased in May by 787,000, the number of job seekers per job opening will be 5.7-to-1, even if job openings are not shown to have declined again in May. While recent labor market reports have indicated that the pace of job loss is slowing, new jobs are not yet being created, and unemployed workers are facing an increasingly uphill battle in the search for work.

Figure: Less than one job opening for every five job seekers

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