Commentary | Jobs and Unemployment

Number of job seekers per job opening rises to 6.4 in November

This morning the Bureau of Labor Statistics released the November 2009 report from the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS), showing that such openings declined by 156,000 to 2.4 million in November. At the same time, the number of unemployed workers decreased by 272,000 to 15.3 million, resulting in 12.9 million more unemployed workers than job openings in November, or 6.4 job seekers per available job, an increase from 6.1 in October (see chart below).     

Fortunately, the number of job openings appears to be stabilizing in recent months.  In the first quarter of 2009, job openings declined an average of 197,000 per month, but in the latest six months the trend was basically flat (declining 18,000 per month, on average).  For the labor market to recover, however, it must start seeing substantial increases in job openings.  There is considerable ground to make up: in 2007 before the recession hit, there was an average 4.6 million job openings per month compared to just half that number in November 2009 at 2.4 million. 

To absorb the over 15 million officially unemployed workers in this country, plus the nearly 2.5 million “marginally attached” workers (jobless workers who want a job but have given up actively seeking work and are therefore not counted as officially unemployed), job openings and hiring must rebound dramatically.  This report offers no indication that such a rebound is happening—instead it adds to existing overwhelming evidence that it is time for substantial additional government action to revive the labor market.

(For additional data on how the ratio between job openings and job seekers has widened over the course of the recession, and how it compares with the 2001 recession, when there were never more than three job seekers per job opening, visit EPI’s Economy Track.)                        

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