Economic Indicators | Economic Growth

Unemployed workers outnumbered job openings five-to-one in April

This morning, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released the April report from the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS), showing that job openings grew sharply by 293,000 to 3.08 million in April.  The upward revision to the March data showing an additional 91,000 openings was also welcome news. From the Current Population Survey, we know that the number of unemployed workers increased by 255,000 in April to 15.3 million.  This means that in April, the ratio of unemployed workers to job openings was 5.0-to-one.  This was an improvement from the March ratio of 5.4-to-one and the lowest ratio since March 2009 when the unemployment rate was 8.6%. However, the scarcity of jobs is still extreme: Today’s ratio of unemployed workers to  job openings is still substantially higher than at the worst point in the last recession when the ratio never went above 2.8 unemployed workers for every job opening.

In 2007, before the recession started, the ratio averaged 1.5-to-one. Now, with 5.0 unemployed workers per available job, people who find themselves out of work can be expected to remain unemployed for extremely long periods.  Currently, 46.0% of this country’s unemployed workers have been unemployed for over six months, the highest share of the current downturn and 20 percentage points above the previous high of 26.0%, set in the summer of 1983.

Last Friday’s employment report showed private sector hiring slowing in May, with the private sector adding only 41,000 jobs, while state and local governments shed 22,000 jobs.  The crater in the labor market is staggering, unemployment remains near 10%, and long-term unemployment continues to break records. It should be clear to all that the long-term unemployed are still beset by a monumental labor market failure and need assistance to weather these circumstances. Moreover, the economic case for additional government action to generate employment is equally clear.

For more information on how the current ratio of job seekers to job openings compares to past recessions, visit EPI’s Economy Track.