We follow two monthly reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics: the Employment Situation (EMPSIT) report, and the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) report. Taken together, they show how many people are looking for work, and how many jobs are available. When you overlay the two sets of numbers, this is what the chart looks like:
Several points stand out:
- Look at the number of unemployed before and after the 2001 recession: we never returned to pre-recession levels, even before the Great Recession.
- The Great Recession created an unprecedented number of unemployed.
- Job openings have almost recovered to the level they were before the Great Recession, and if current trends continue, may approach the level they were before the 2001 recession.
- To balance the current number of unemployed workers with the number of job openings, we would need an additional 7.8 million jobs to open up.
- That doesn't include the almost 7 million men and women not in the labor force who also want a job.
What does it all mean? It means that we need policies and business practices that will rebuild the middle class, which took a gut punch during the recession. It means that we need to create an extra 15 million jobs if we're going to get back to full employment.
In terms of Schumpeter's creative destruction, it means we've had a ton of destruction, but not much creation at all.
It also means that there are millions of Americans out there, every day, looking for work that's not yet there. And until the jobs are created, they need our help.