October 2010 Job Openings Reach Post-Recession High

Earlier this week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that October 2010 job openings reached a record high since August 2008. When I began reading this report, I immediately thought that the bump related to hiring increases for temporary seasonal workers, as businesses planned to increase their staff bases to sustain the busy shopping season. In actuality, the BLS report reveals that growth has been happening steadily-- month over month-- over the past year.

The BLS reported that on the last business day in October, there were 3.4 million job openings. Over the month, the number of job openings had increased by 2.5 percent. The hiring rate was at 3.2 percent. In September, the number of job openings was 3 million.

Over the course of the month, the change appears slight; however, it is more substantial when compared with previous figures. Since July 2009, the number of job openings has increased by 1 million or 44 percent.

Despite a positive and upward trend, the United States economy is nowhere near healthy. Before the recession began three years ago in December 2007, there were 4.4 million job openings.

In the last year, seven   industries experienced an increase in the number of job openings, while two experienced a decline. The two that experienced a decline include state & local government and education, while the private industries that experienced an increase include construction, manufacturing, professional/business services, leisure/hospitality, arts/entertainment/recreation, and accommodation/food services. Job openings were trending upwards in three out of four United States regions-- the Northeast, South, and West.

A Snapshot of Industry Growth Between October 2009 and October 2010:

  • The private sector, in total, experienced a growth from 2,164,000 to 3,768,000 open positions.
  • Manufacturing grew from 141,000 to 271,000 open positions.
  • Professional and business services grew from 436,000 to 770,000 open positions.
  • Education and health services decreased from 529,000 to 434,000 open positions.
  • State and local government, in general, has been trending downwards over the last year and experienced a decrease from 292,000 to 239,000 open positions.
  • Accommodation and food services increased from 249,000 to  586,000 open positions.

While these numbers are promising, it is important to approach them with some scrutiny. First of all, I'd like to know whether these open positions included full-time benefited positions, and secondly, I would like to know whether these open positions paid fair market rates. While overall job growth is positive, low-paying, temporary, and part time positions are less than ideal for families who are unable to make ends meet.

What is interesting to note is that the "quits" rate-- the rate at which people voluntarily leave their job-- increased between October 2009 and October 2010 for the private sector. This trend is a positive sign because it reflects that people are starting to feel more confident in their job mobility. People are not as stagnant as they previously were.

The layoffs rate remains unchanged (month-over-month) for the private sector, and it fell for government. Since January 2009, however, the number of layoffs has decreased-- in January 2009, the number of layoffs was 2.6 million, and in October 2010, the number of layoffs was 108,000.

Feeling optimistic?

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