The monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary has shown slow but steady improvement over the past several years in key measures of labor-market health.
The rate of layoffs returned to pre-recession levels in 2012 and hasn’t risen significantly since then. Levels of job openings and hires have risen steadily since the crash in employment in 2008 and 2009, and both indicators show continuing strength at this stage of the economic recovery.
Kim Gottschalk, a senior manager for the Midwest region at recruitment and staffing firm Accounting Principals, said the labor market has become very tight for employers.
“We’re going to tell them to act fast when they find people,” said Gottschalk, characterizing the advice she gives clients recruiting new employees. “Top-skilled talent is very difficult to find right now.”
The JOLTS report also tracks the “quits rate,” which economists use as an indicator of how willing workers are to leave their current jobs to look for new ones. As the unemployment rate has declined over the past several years, and the average length of time workers stay unemployed has diminished, the quits rate has slowly improved. But quits have still not returned to pre-recession levels.
Andrew Chamberlain is chief economist at the online employment website Glassdoor. He said that the elevated quits rate reveals both financial and psychological scars from the Great Recession.
Based on current levels of job creation and unemployment (now at 4.9 percent), Chamberlain called this "one of the best labor markets in a generation.” But, he said many Americans are still deeply afraid of being laid off, losing income, and struggling to find work.
“When people go through a traumatic experience following a recession and they have long unemployment spells, especially when they’re young and just entering the labor force, there’s no question that these things change behaviors for years down the road,” said Chamberlain.