Economic Indicators | Economic Growth

Number of unemployed workers per available job continues to climb

While the moderating of job losses in August, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) on September 4, is a very welcome sign, it is still getting harder and harder each month for unemployed workers to find a job.

This morning, the BLS released the July report from the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS), which showed that job openings decreased by 121,000 in July. Throughout the recession, the number of unemployed workers has continued to grow, increasing by 6.9 million from December 2007 to July 2009. In July, there were 12.1 million more unemployed workers than job openings, or 6.0 job seekers per available job—up from 5.9 in June (see Figure).1

[Figure: Number of job seekers per job opening continues to climb]

Since the start of the recession in December 2007, job openings have dropped by 2.0 million, a decline of 45.4%. However, the declines are slowing—from September to March, the losses averaged 156,000 per month, but from April to July, the losses averaged 60,000 per month.

Employment and unemployment numbers for August became available last Friday, while JOLTS data are released with a one-month lag. Given last Friday’s announcement that unemployment increased by 466,000 last month, the number of job seekers per job opening will have risen to 6.2 in August even if there were no further decreases in job openings. Until we turn the corner on job losses and start gaining jobs again, finding employment will continue to be very difficult for jobless workers in this country.

1. The June number was higher than the previously reported June value of 5.8 job seekers per available job due to a downward revision this month of 45,000 job openings in June.

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