Every month, the government tallies the number of people looking for jobs and the number of job openings that are available. It has always been the case that the number of people looking for work has exceeded the number of available positions — until March. New data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggest that, for the first time, there’s about a 1-to-1 match between jobs and job-seekers.
Now, we add the caveats.
The first is that the government has been collecting the data on job openings only since 2001, so the gap between job-seekers and job openings only extends back that far. But given how wide the gap has been — in July 2009, there were more than six people looking for work for every job opening — that the ratio has reached its current point is remarkable.
A critical consideration here is that just because there’s one job for every job-seeker doesn’t mean there’s a job you would want. About a fifth of the jobs are in two industry sectors: health care and social assistance, and professional and business services. Another 13 percent are in accommodation and food services and in retail.
Those are very different jobs. In March, the average hourly earnings for those positions varied widely.
(Those earnings vary widely within each industry, of course.)
That health care in particular is one of the places where the most employment is available should not come as a surprise. Since the beginning of 2008, it has been one of the industries that has added jobs at the fastest and most consistent clip, avoiding the job losses of the recession.
To step back for a second, we’ll note the two industries at the bottom of the available-jobs list: Working for the federal government and working in mining and logging. The latter is a small industry, but even given that, the job-opening rate for mining and logging — openings as a percent of employed people plus openings — was 3 percent. Only nondurable-goods manufacturing had a lower rate of job openings in the private sector. In the public sector, every industry was under 3 percent, including the federal government, at 2.9 percent.
Why note that? Because President Trump has given himself a great deal of credit for the state of the economy — while focusing on industries like mining. Relatively speaking, that’s not where the jobs are. While the rates for, say, retail trade have climbed (from 3.5 percent in March 2017 to 4.3 percent this March), the rates in mining and logging have been flat. (For nondurable goods, the rate has plunged.)
Anyway, more good economic news. Just that one outstanding question about the economy, then: Where are the pay increases?