The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed job openings falling by 118,000 in April to 3.8 million. Job openings have improved very little over the last year and remain very depressed. In 2007, there were 4.5 million job openings each month, so April’s level of 3.8 million is more than 16 percent below its prerecession level.
The job openings data are extremely useful for diagnosing what’s behind our sustained high unemployment. In today’s economy, unemployed workers far outnumber job openings in every sector, as shown in Figure A. This demonstrates that the main problem in the labor market is a broad-based lack of demand for workers—and not, as is often claimed, available workers lacking the skills needed for the sectors with job openings.
In particular, there have recently been stories (for example, here) of worker shortages in construction. While there may be some construction firms in some places that cannot find the workers they need, the data show that this is in no way a prevalent phenomenon—unemployed construction workers outnumber job openings in construction by nearly 12-to-1. In construction as well as in every major industry, it is work that our labor market lacks, not the right workers.
Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor