Economic Indicators | Jobs and Unemployment

Nearly six unemployed workers per job but ratio does not worsen

by Lawrence Mishel with research assistance from Andrew Green

This morning, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released the June report from the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS), which showed that job openings increased by 35,000 in June, although downward revisions to May data erased nearly all 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 number of unemployed workers grew by 7.2 million to 14.7 million jobless workers, so that in June there were 12.2 million more unemployed workers than job openings — or 5.8 job seekers per available job.

This ratio is unchanged from the revised May numbers — the first time in over a year that the ratio has not increased, and one more sign that while the situation for job seekers remains extremely dire, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is now having an important effect in creating and preserving jobs. These data explain why long-term unemployment — over a third of all unemployed have been so for at least 27 weeks — is so high and also affirm the reason why it is critical to maintain and expand the length of time unemployment insurance is available. Although employment and unemployment numbers for July became available last Friday, JOLTS data are released with a one-month lag. The story has not changed in the last month. Unemployment did fall in July but this was an artificial, and temporary, decline driven by the labor force decline of 422,000.

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