Speed Reads

don't quit your day job

This one chart shows how badly the job market is still struggling

The government released its data on job openings for August today. The report profiles a labor market still struggling to provide economic uplift to American workers.

Total hires and quits have been growing since the depths of the recession, but plateaued around the start of 2015 and did not rise in August. Both are important, because hires obviously imply job creation, and quits imply workers confident enough to leave their jobs and look for something better. (The prime age employment ratio, another good metric of how well the economy is doing at supplying everyone with work, has plateaued as well.) And while some sectors have more job openings than workers, the economy as a whole still has 1.5 people actively seeking work for every job opening.

But maybe the clearest sign comes when you compare the rates of quits and job openings. The openings rate (in blue) kept increasing since 2009, while the quits rate (in orange) has virtually flatlined, along with the rate of wage growth (in grey):

So the additional job openings aren't translating into more confident workers, or more worker bargaining power. The most likely explanation is that there remains a large pool of people who were shoved out of the workforce entirely by the Great Recession, but who want to work, and many of them are soaking up the new job openings as they trickle back into the labor force.

As a result, the supply of workers is still well above the demand for them. So the increase in job openings isn't translating into more options for individual workers, or any pressure on employers to increase pay.