On January 12, 2010, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) announced the results of the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey for November 2009. This is a survey of business establishments that collects data on total employment, job openings, hires, quits, layoffs and discharges, and other separations. It clearly showed that the job market isn't getting better, it's actually getting worse. (Learn more in How Unemployment Affects You (Even If You're Working).)
Job seekers now outnumber openings by more than six to one with over 15 million people looking for jobs and only 2.4 million openings, which is the fewest job openings recorded since the BLS started collecting the data a decade ago.
While layoffs and terminations are part of the problem, the lack of new job creation is significant. From November 2008 to November 2009, monthly job separations fell 500,000 per month, from 4.8 million to 4.3 million, but job openings fell 900,000 per month from 3.3 million to 2.4 million. The difference of 400,000 a month shows that while fewer people are losing their jobs, there are even fewer opportunities to find a new one. (Be prepared if unemployment is in your future. Check out Planning For Unemployment.)
Job openings are submitted by establishments on the last business day of the month and require a specific position to be available where work could start in the next 30 days. It could include full, part time and seasonal work.
Hires are the total number of additions to the payroll occurring at any time during the month, including both new and rehired employees, full-time and part-time, permanent, short-term and seasonal employees, etc.
Separations are the total number of terminations of employment occurring at any time during the month including quits, layoffs and discharges, and other separations. (Learn more in What You Need To Know About The Employment Report.)
If You're Looking for a Job
Job Openings By Geography
Comparing job openings from November 2008 to November 2009, the South has been hit the hardest, going from 1.267 million job openings to 796,000 for a loss of 471,000. Contrast that with the Northeast and Midwest that lost around 100,000 or the West with 186,000.
Comparing job openings from June 2009 to November 2009, job openings for the South are down about 100,000. The same for the Northeast. But for the Midwest and West, they are up about 50,000, giving some small glimmer of hope in those areas.
Being able to relocate is always helpful in a job search and going west seems to your best chance right now.
Job Openings By Industry
The industries where job openings are still trending down over the last three months include transportation and utilities, retail, professional and business services, leisure and hospitality, and accommodations and food services.
But there are those industries that are looking up, including construction and manufacturing, and both federal and state government.
It's easier to find work if you are willing to look beyond the cubicle, store or service industry. Look into blue collar jobs or the public sector.
If You are Hoping to Keep Your Job
Terminations by Geography
Comparing total terminations per month from November 2008 to November 2009, the Northeast has been hit the hardest, increasing from 767,000 million terminations per month to 865,000, for an increase of almost 100,000 more terminations per month now than there were a year ago. Contrast that with the other areas of the country, all of which are lower. The terminations per month have fallen in the South, Midwest and West by 177,000, 272,000 and 242,000 respectively.
Comparing terminations from more recent months could provide more clarity. June 2009 to November 2009 shows three regions staying the course, but the South has changed from decreasing terminations to increasing terminations. In other words, more people are losing their jobs in the South now than they were last June, but not as many as the previous November.
Again, it's good to be out west. The terminations are more quickly slowing.
Terminations by Industry
The industries where terminations are trending up over the last three months include retail, professional and business services, leisure and hospitality, entertainment, and accommodations and food services.
Industries that are basically flat include manufacturing, transportation and utilities, education, and government. But there are a few industries that are terminating fewer people. Those include construction and retail.
While it's hard to feel any job is safe in this environment, the bottom seems to be close in a few industries and many are flattening out. But we are clearly not out of the woods yet.
Headline numbers don't capture the entire picture. Digging deeper into data like the Jobs Openings and Turnover Report shows a more precise picture and more detail. While this isn't good news for anyone, it's better to know what's really going on than to make a bad decision based on faulty information.