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Jon Talton

Analysis and commentary on economic news, trends and issues, with an emphasis on Seattle and the Northwest.

August 13, 2014 at 10:40 AM

Sorry, the jobs situation is still dismal

The widely distributed headline is something like “Job Openings Are at a 13-Year High.” Yay! Unfortunately, it is also highly misleading.

What drove the meme was Tuesday’s release of the June JOLTS by the U.S. Labor Department. The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey is a valuable look at the health of the labor market because it shows not only job openings but voluntary separations. The number of the latter gives a sense of how confident employees are in leaving their current job that they can find another.

So, yes, openings are (barely) at a level not seen since 2001 — but that was when the economy was sliding into a recession. Compare it to the vibrant job market of the late 1990s:

OPENINGSfredgraph

The “quits” rate remains very weak. According to labor economist Heidi Shierholz of the Economic Policy Institute, each month has seen 15 percent fewer voluntary separations than before the Great Recession. Job creation is too weak to give workers confidence about leaving their current position.

QUITSfredgraph

In addition, the labor force has grown considerably over the past 13 years.

LABFORCEfredgraph

As Shierholz emphasizes, “for a full recovery in the labor market to occur, two key things need to happen: Layoffs need to come down, and hiring needs to pick up.” Job creation has been happening, but nowhere near the level needed to address high unemployment, much less raise wages.

In addition, according to a new report prepared for the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the jobs created during the recovery pay much less than before the Great Recession. The average yearly wage of jobs gained through the second quarter of this year was $47,171. By comparison, the jobs lost in 2008-2009 averaged $61,637. And this was after years of stagnant or falling pay for most. (Download the report here).

Yet another fresh look at the situation comes from Seattle-based PayScale. Its underemployment survey finds that almost half of U.S. workers surveyed felt they are underpaid. Also, a gender gap is prevalent.

We have a long way to go and federal austerity and rent-seeking by the 1 percent continue to be the biggest reasons why we still have a huge gap in demand from the Great Recession.


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Sorry, Hollywood

Our corporate welfare goes

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