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Despite reports, odds still stacked against job seekers

A recent report from the Department of Labor has job listings up sharply over two years prior, but with unemployment at 8.6 percent, job openings are not plentiful.

The Pulse is weaker today on a U.S. Department of Labor report that put October’s ratio of job seekers to job listings at 4.25 to 1. Not great odds for those pounding the pavement in search of a way to pay the rent.

The department reported that employers listed 3.3 million jobs this past October. While it was a slight downtick from the previous month -- there were 3.4 million in September 2011 -- October’s number was still the second highest in three years, up a million listings from July 2009.

Seems like a good sign until you look at the length of the queue for those positions. Nearly 14 million people (8.6 percent of the U.S. workforce) were officially trying to land those 3.1 million jobs. In case you don’t have a calculator handy, that’s 4.25 unemployed for each classified ad.

Some see the jobs picture as becoming rosier and point to statistics like the recent half-point unemployment rate drop and a strong growth in job gains from an average of 84,000 per month this summer to 143,000 per month since.

That’s good news and worth celebrating, but don’t quit your job to attend the party. Recent bright spots in employment numbers are partially based on the fact that vast amounts of the long-term unemployed have run out of benefits or simply given up circling classified ads all together.

About the author

Joel Patterson is the Associate Producer of Marketplace Money.

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