April 2, 2024

The  Labor Department reported that job openings rose 8 thousand in February to 8,756 thousand after having declined 141 thousand in January.  The pace of economic activity has been slowing a bit, but the labor market keeps hanging in there fairly well.  Job openings have fallen from their peak of 12,027 thousand in March of last year, but remain far higher than the 7,000 thousand level that existed prior to the recession.

As shown in the chart below, there are currently more job openings than there are unemployed workers.  Specifically, there are 1.4 jobs available for every unemployed worker.  Prior to the recession this rate was steady at about 1.2, but if one looks at the decade prior to the recession there are typically fewer job openings than there are unemployed workers.  As shown below, a ratio of 0.6 would be regarded as normal during that period.

The Labor Department also provides information on hires each month.  Hires rose 120 thousand in February to 5,818 thousand after having fallen 89 thousand in January.  Employment remains quite steady.

The rate of job openings  was unchanged in February at 5.3 while the pace of hiring rose 0.1 to 3.7.   Thus, the ratio of job openings to hires fell slightly in February to 43.2%, which means that job openings continue to outpace hiring.  If that is true, employment should continue to climb in the months ahead.  Prior to the recession job openings were 15% higher than hires.  Unemployed workers today do not seem to have the skills required by employers, have chosen to become gig workers and go into business for themselves, are unable to find affordable day care, and/or are willing to live off generous government benefits for as long as they can.

The quit rate was unchanged in February at 2.2 after having been unchanged in January.  The willingness to quit one’s job declined for a couple of years as workers concern about slower growth occurring in the not-too-far-distant future made them slightly less willing to quit their job than they had been.  However, the quit rate has been steady for the past four months.  Prior to the recession the quit rate was 2.3.  It is roughly the same today as where it was prior to the recession.

Stephen Slifer


Charleston, SC