Job Openings Per Worker

Scott Winship likes to come up with empirical data that debunks liberal views, so he set out to see if the employment situation is really as bad as people say and it turns out to be totally terrible:

In particular, the idea that there were 5 people looking for work for every job opening struck me as sounding overly alarmist. So I started looking into the numbers to determine whether I thought they were reliable. The figures folks are using rely on a survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics called the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, which unfortunately only goes back to December of 2000. But the Conference Board has put out estimates of the number of help wanted ads since the 1950s. Through mid-2005, the estimates were based on print ads, as far as I can tell, but the Conference Board then switched to monitoring online ads. You can find the monthly figures for print ads here and the ones for online ads here. The JOLT and unemployment figures are relatively easy to find at BLS’s website.

The results, after a bit of re-indexing to make them comparable:

Picture 1

Winship writes “I’ll just say I was shocked and that I am much more sympathetic to extension of unemployment insurance than I was yesterday.”

I don’t think people should be dismissive of the idea that unemployment insurance has a disemploying impact on incentives. And that’s why in normal times you don’t want to offer an unlimited amount of unemployment insurance. But faced with a massive gap between the number of people looking for work and the number of job openings, this just doesn’t matter as much as it otherwise would and the humanitarian and aggregate demand impacts are way more important.