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There are 3 unemployed workers for every job opening
The labor market remains a very bleak place
It's still pretty cutthroat out there.
It's still pretty cutthroat out there. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
D

espite modest GDP growth, unemployment is still a huge problem in America, a report released Tuesday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics confirms.

Heidi Shierholz from the Economic Policy Institute crunched the numbers and created some pretty depressing charts. Here is the number of unemployed people compared to the number of job openings, per industry.

(Economic Policy Institute)

Yes, it's as bad as it looks. In April, the average "job-seekers ratio" was 3.1-to-1, which means there were more than three unemployed people for every available job. In construction, the ratio was 12-to-1.

Shierholz said the numbers prove that "the main problem in the labor market is a broad-based lack of demand for workers — and not, as is often claimed, available workers lacking the skills needed for the sectors with job openings."

The Atlantic's Jordan Weissman wonders if "companies used the recession as a chance to lay off employees whose talents were no longer valuable to them and have yet to find replacements with fresher skills."

Whatever the reason for the gap, the fact remains that, for job-seekers, the economy is still rough. Shierholz whipped up another chart showing the job-seekers ratio for the last 13 years.

(Economic Policy Institute)

Note that the current ratio — while a vast improvement over July 2009's high of 6.7-to-1 — is still worse than the aftermath of the last recession, which followed the bursting of the dot-com bubble.

What's the problem? While layoffs have held steady, hiring hasn't increased enough to compensate for previous losses, meaning, according to Shierholz, "the consequences for workers of being laid off are far worse now than before the recession began; workers are far less likely to find a new job within a reasonable timeframe, particularly one that pays as much as the job they lost."

Keith Wagstaff is a staff writer at TheWeek.com covering politics and current events. He has previously written for such publications as TIME, Details, VICE, and the Village Voice.

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