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News from EPI Unemployed workers far outnumber job openings in every major sector

The April Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that job openings fell by 118,000 in April to 3.8 million. Job openings have seen very little improvement over the last year and remain very depressed. In 2007, there were 4.5 million job openings each month, so April’s rate of 3.8 million is more than 16 percent below its pre-recession level.

In her analysis, EPI economist Heidi Shierholz notes that unemployed workers far outnumber job openings in every sector, which demonstrates 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. For example, while there have been recent claims that the construction industry is facing worker shortages, the data show the opposite. Unemployed construction workers outnumber job openings in construction by nearly 12-to-1. “In construction as well as in every major industry, it is not the right workers our labor market is lacking, it is work,” says Shierholz. “Further, while there may be some construction firms in some places who cannot find the workers they need, the data show that this is in no way a prevalent phenomenon.”