The Number of Unemployed Exceeds the Number of Available Jobs Across All Sectors

The figure below shows the number of unemployed workers and the number of job openings in September, by industry. This figure is useful for diagnosing what’s behind our sustained high unemployment. If today’s labor market woes were the result of skills shortages or mismatches, we would expect to see some sectors where there are more unemployed workers than job openings, and others where there are more job openings than unemployed workers. What we find, however, is that unemployed workers exceed jobs openings across the board.

Some sectors have been closing the gap faster than others. Health care and social assistance, which has been consistently adding jobs throughout the business cycle, has a ratio quickly approaching 1-to-1. On the other end of the spectrum, there are 6.5 unemployed construction workers for every job opening. Removing those two extremes, there are between 1.1 and 3.1 as many unemployed workers as job openings in every other industry. This demonstrates that the main problem in the labor market is a broad-based lack of demand for workers—not, as is often claimed, available workers lacking the skills needed for the sectors with job openings.


Unemployed and job openings, by industry (in millions)

Industry Unemployed Job openings
Professional and business services 1.1383 .8208
Health care and social assistance .7028 .6798
Retail trade 1.1662 .4729
Accommodation and food services .9651 .5539
Government .7158 .4257
Finance and insurance .2733 .2183
Durable goods manufacturing .5034 .1746
Other services .3998 .1443
Wholesale trade .1662 .1468
Transportation, warehousing, and utilities .3823 .1598
Information .1586 .1043
Construction .8076 .1250
Nondurable goods manufacturing .3262 .1081
Educational services .2265 .0758
Real estate and rental and leasing .1212 .0519
Arts, entertainment, and recreation .2258 .0738
Mining and logging .0558 .0274


ChartData Download data

The data below can be saved or copied directly into Excel.

Note: Because the data are not seasonally adjusted, these are 12-month averages, September 2013–August 2014.

Source: EPI analysis of data from the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey and the Current Population Survey

Copy the code below to embed this chart on your website.