Commentary | Economic Growth

Finding work twice as hard as when recession began a year ago

This morning the Bureau of Labor Statistics released the Job Openings and Labor Turnover (JOLTS) data for December of 2008. The data show that there were 2.7 million job openings in December, down 6% from November 2008 and down 32% from the start of the recession in December 2007.

While job openings are becoming more and more scarce, the ranks of the unemployed are growing dramatically – up by 47% in the first year of the recession – such that in December there were 11.1 million unemployed workers.

“This means that there were 4.1 job seekers per available job – more than double the number of job seekers per available job at the beginning of the recession, which stood at 1.9 in December 2007,” said EPI economist Heidi Shierholz.

The JOLTS data are available by census region. Since the start of the recession, the West has experienced the largest decline in job openings, at 40%, followed by the South (down 32%), the Midwest (down 30%), and the Northeast (down 15%). The West also had the largest number of unemployed workers per job opening, at 4.9, followed by the Midwest (4.8), the South (3.6), and the Northeast (3.6).

Note: Given the 508,000 increase in unemployment in January, if job openings experience the same decline in January that they experienced in December, that will translate into 4.6 unemployed workers per job opening in January.