Popular Economics Weekly
The Calculated Risk graph says it best in the Labor Department’s latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS). There are still about one million more job openings (yellow line) than hires (blue line). There have been more openings than hires since January 2015, according to Calculated Risk.
This tells us several things about the U.S. economy. Firstly, America has a skilled labor shortage because technological innovation exceeds the existing labor force—in fact throughout its history.
America is still a young country in many ways, and our birthrate is declining. This is in contrast to older developed and developing countries in Europe and Asia that have had labor surpluses existing before the various technological revolutions.
Secondly, it is why we so badly need new immigrants to fill those vacancies. Therefore restricting immigration is counter-productive in so many ways. It restricts the growth of our labor force, which directly affects economic growth, and denies America’s history as the land of opportunity. America was founded by immigrants, and it is immigrants that contribute new ideas as well as new blood to our creative mix.
Lastly, the huge gap between job hires and openings tells us there shouldn’t be a fear of recession, or even a significant slowdown, for maybe years to come. Why? Job openings continue to far exceed the six million looking for work, according to the (BLS).
The number of job openings fell to 6.9 million on the last business day of November, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported today. Over the month, hires edged down to 5.7 million, quits edged down to 3.4 million, and total separations were little changed at 5.5 million. Within separations, the quits rate and the layoffs and discharges rate were unchanged at 2.3 percent and 1.2 percent, respectively. This release includes estimates of the number and rate of job openings, hires, and separations for the nonfarm sector by industry and by four geographic regions.
The BLS said large numbers of hires and separations occur every month throughout the business cycle. When the number of hires exceeds the number of separations, employment rises, even if the hires level is steady or declining. Conversely, when the number of hires is less than the number of separations, employment declines, even if the hires level is steady or rising.
And over the 12 months ending in November, hires totaled 68.0 million and separations totaled 65.6 million, yielding a net annual employment gain of 2.4 million. (These totals include workers who may have been hired and separated more than once during the year.)
So U.S. economic growth should continue to perk along, even if it slows to the historical rate of 2 percent that has prevailed since the end of the Great Recession. It may never climb above that rate without more workers joining the workforce, and there is more public sector investment. We know what those investments should be—infrastructure modernization, improving educational opportunities, combating global warming, etc.—that would give a big boost to labor productivity as well.
The ideal would be to spend more in public investments, but if congress can’t agree on more spending, either American households increase their number of offspring (which is highly unlikely) and/or we reverse the current administration’s anti-immigration policies.
Harlan Green © 2019
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