Some more good news on the job market: For the first time since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began keeping track in 2000, there’s now a job opening available for every single unemployed worker.
That’s not the same as saying, of course, that every unemployed worker out there will qualify for one of these vacancies. The kinds of jobs available may not match the distribution of workers’ skills, locations or preferences for the kind of work they want to do.
But nonetheless it’s still a very good sign — and, to be clear, a continuation of an existing trend. The ratio peaked at 6.6 unemployed people per job opening in July 2009 and has been falling steadily ever since.
Another good sign in the same BLS release that these numbers came from: The share of people quitting their jobs continues to trend upward.
Why is this a good thing? It suggests that workers feel sufficiently confident in job-market opportunities out there that they’re willing to leave their work. During the depths of the Great Recession, many workers clearly perceived quitting their jobs as way too risky.
Meanwhile, layoff rates are close to record lows. Firms can’t afford to fire workers because finding new talent has proven challenging (at least at the wages they’re willing to offer).
As Sophia Koropeckyj of Moody’s Analytics notes, in March, companies hired only 5.4 million workers and had 6.55 million vacancies on the last day of the month. This was the biggest gap since the survey began in the early 2000s. Hires are a flow while job openings are a stock, so they’re not directly comparable, but still, the gap suggests firms are having trouble finding workers.
Which brings us to: Why aren’t firms raising wages much, then? Some theories in my Tuesday column.