The Unemployed and Job Openings: A Data Primer

Source: Donald Hirasuna, Congressional Research Service, CRS Report for Congress, R42943, January 31, 2013

New information that adds to the mix of labor market indicators may be useful to Congress. The ratio of unemployed persons per job opening provides information on how many unemployed persons on average there are for every job opening. It adds to the current mix of labor market indicators such as the unemployment rate, which is a measure of the excess supply of workers. In addition, it adds to employment statistics, which measures the demand for workers that have already been met by employers. By dividing the number of unemployed persons with the number of job openings, the ratio gauges the excess supply of workers relative to the demand, where job openings serve as a measure of the unmet need for workers. The resultant statistic compares the number of persons who are actively searching for jobs to the number of available opportunities.

Four key findings arise from this analysis:
1. The ratio of unemployed persons per job opening is highly correlated with the unemployment rate between 2001 and 2012.
2. The ratio of unemployed persons per job opening rises during the recessionary periods covered in this data set. In the 2007-2009 recession, the ratio rises to very high levels, especially in the goods-producing industries (construction, manufacturing, mining and logging).
3. Although the ratio is highly correlated with changes in the unemployment rate, the ratio saw modest improvements coming out of the recent recession sooner than the reductions in the unemployment rate.
4. Even though the ratio has reduced, it remains at higher levels than prior to the 2007-2009 recession.