One Jobless Measure Improving More Rapidly Than Unemployment Rate

The U.S. unemployment rate has stayed stubbornly high, and large numbers of jobless workers translates into lower sales at companies such as Wal-Mart (WMT), General Mills (GIS) and Ford (F). And yet . . .

US Unemployment Rate Chart

US Unemployment Rate data by YCharts

One positive for the American job market: the number of unemployed people per job opening is falling. In November, there were 3.3 unemployed job seekers for every open job in the U.S., according to the latest report from the Labor Department.

US Unemployment: Job Seeker Chart

US Unemployment: Job Seeker data by YCharts

That’s about half the number of unemployed people for every job opening as there were in the summer of 2009. And while it’s not quite to the 1.8-unemployed-people-per-open-job ratio the U.S. had before the recession, it is progress. When the recession officially ended in 2009, there were 6.2 unemployed people per job opening.

By November, there were 3.7 million open jobs in the U.S., the Labor Department’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey said. That’s a 68 percent increase in job openings from June 2009 and a 1.2 million jobs shy of their March 2007 peak.

US Job Openings: Total Nonfarm Chart

US Job Openings: Total Nonfarm data by YCharts

Employers in November reporting hiring 4.3 million people and 2.1 million people felt confident enough in the job market to voluntarily switch jobs. As expected, retail job openings were up. But even absent the holidays, the number of job openings across several sectors has been increasing.

According to the government’s data: construction jobs are up 467% since April 2009, manufacturing jobs are up 188%, and professional and business services jobs are up a less eye-popping 41%. Overall, private sector job openings in November were up 71% from its July 2009 low.

Meena Thiruvengadam, a contributing editor at YCharts, was formerly a reporter for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal in Washington, D.C., where she covered economic news, the financial crisis and economic indicators. She can be reached at



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