A Key Economic Indicator Just Returned to Pre-Recession Levels
Business + Economy

A Key Economic Indicator Just Returned to Pre-Recession Levels

In another bit of good news for the U.S. economy, the ratio of job openings to the number of unemployed Americans has fallen to levels last seen before the Great Recession.

At the end of January, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS), there were 1.8 unemployed Americans for every open job in the U.S. That’s better news than it sounds, according to Drew Desilver of the Pew Research Center: “While that may sound disheartening, it’s actually well within pre-recession norms: Between January 2005 and December 2007, the number of unemployed people per opening varied between 1.45 and 2.17, and averaged 1.68 over the entire three-year period.”

Related: Will Friday’s Jobs Report Force Janet Yellen’s Hand


By contrast, at the peak of the Great Recession, there were 6.8 jobseekers for every open position, a number that has been declining steadily – if agonizingly slowly – since mid-2009.

The JOLTS survey is one of Federal Reserve board Chair Janet Yellen’s preferred economic indicators – part of her so-called “dashboard” – because it helps give a fuller picture of the jobs market than the simple unemployment rate is able to provide. 

As the Federal Open Market Committee considers when it will be appropriate to raise interest rates above zero, where they have now been for years, the declining number of jobless Americans competing for each open position will no doubt be one of the figures on their minds.

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