In the hole

My editor came over today to ask me about a story -- how President Obama's economic advisors are telling him not to expect any major improvements in employment any time soon. Yet, we see some positive signs in the economy, and indeed, even in employment. Still I'm extremely pessimistic. When I think of the hole we are in, the modest and hopeful predictions of 100,000 jobs a month are simply not enough to put 14.8 million people back to work.

One positive sign is this month's Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, a monthly report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This measures the ratio of job openings to job seekers and now there are 5.4 job seekers for every job opening, all 2.7 million of them. That's down from six seekers per job, the prior month. But to put it in perspective,  it is twice as high as it was during the WORST month following 2000 recession when it peaked the ratio peaked at 2.8 job seekers for every job. Of course saying that 5.4 job seekers per job is positive is like saying it's great that a machine only amputated two arms instead of two arms and two legs.

That analysis (except the part about the machine amputating body parts) comes from the Employment Policy Institute, which has charted it all out. You can click here to see it. 

Some other points worth noting. That 2.8 ratio, the worst following the last recession occurred nearly two years after the official end of the recession. The recession officially ended in November 2001, but the 2.8 ratio peak happened in September, 2003. When the current recession began in December, 2007, there were 1.8 job seekers for each job.