Jolt in May, 2.5 million job openings

Here's the latest disturbing statistic about unemployment, courtesy of yesterday's report from the U.S. Department of Labor and the Economic Policy Institute. In May, there were 5.7 unemployed workers for every one of the 2,554,000 jobs openings in the economy. Wow. (Click here to read the EPI's analysis.)

This news comes from the Labor Department report known as the JOLT report, (Job Openings and Labor Turnover). In May, as I said, there were 2,554,000 million job openings, up from 2,513,000 in April. But just to give you an idea of how far things have declined, there were 4 million  job openings in May, 2008. For there to be a job opening, the company has to be actively recruiting -- bringing laid off people back doesn't count, nor do internal transfers and promotions. The job has to be ready to roll within 30 days.

The number of hires is also down from 4,117,000 in April to 3,980,000 in May. Hires include people brought back from layoff and seasonal workers. A third major statistic is separations. Here is where we see a glimmering of good news. Separations are declining. In May, there were 4,359,000 separations (which includes people who quit, people who were laid off, people who retired and people who died -- that's my favorite, hard to work when you are dead). Layoffs and discharges made up 53 percent of the separations. In August 2006, only one in three separations was due to a layoff.

In the 12 months ending in May, there were 52.9 million hires and 57.8 million separations, a net employment loss of 4.9 million. In almost every sector, separations exceeded hires. The exceptions? Education and health services, accommodation and food services, and state and local government.