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While the number of weekly jobless claims has been stalling for the past couple of months, hovering around 800,000 since late summer, the U.S. job market has continued its gradual recovery over said period. The number of job openings, a measure of labor demand, climbed to 6.65 million in December, up marginally from 6.57 the month before. Meanwhile the unemployment rate dropped to 6.3 percent in January, the lowest it’s been since the pandemic hit and unemployment subsequently soared to 14.8 percent in April 2020.
Despite the increase in job openings and the gradual decline in unemployment, the number of jobless people still exceeds unfilled positions by a significant margin. According to the BLS, 10.74 million Americans were unemployed at the end of December vs. 6.65 million job openings.
As the following chart shows, the ratio of unemployed persons per job opening now stands at 1.6, down from 4.6 in April. Prior to the pandemic, the number of job openings had exceeded the level of unemployment since March 2018, indicating high demand for labor following a long recovery from the financial crisis. In July 2009, the number of unemployed persons per unfilled position had peaked at 6.4, mainly due to a collapse of job openings.
This chart shows the number of unemployed persons per job opening in the United States.
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