June 19, 2012

AP’s Job Openings Coverage Understates Significance of Steep Drop

It wouldn’t quite be fair to say that the Associated Press’s Christopher Rugaber sugarcoated his dispatch on today’s release of the April Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) by Uncle Sam’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. But it would be more than fair to say he missed several chances to tell readers how significant the setbacks BLS relayed really were (openings fell 8.7% from a seasonally adjusted 3.741 million to 3.416 million). That’s especially true, given what we already know about May’s employment situation.

What follows are several paragraphs from Rugaber’s report, followed by contextual factoids the folks at Zero Hedge found which the AP reporter missed or ignored:

US employers post fewest job openings in 5 months

Employers in April posted the fewest job openings in five months, suggesting hiring will remain sluggish in the months ahead.

The Labor Department said Tuesday that job openings fell to a seasonally adjusted 3.4 million in April, down from 3.7 million in March. The March figure was the highest in nearly four years.

The decline could mean employers are growing more cautious about adding workers in the face of financial turmoil in Europe and slower growth in the United States. Job openings can take one to three months to fill.

There were 12.5 million unemployed people in April. That means there was an average of 3.7 people competing for each open job. In a healthy job market, the ratio is usually around 2 to 1.

Openings have risen by almost a third since the recession ended in June 2009. But they are still below pre-recession levels of about 5 million per month.

Now let’s see what the folks at Zero Hedge were able to find by 11:24 a.m. today, two hours before the latest time stamp (1:26 p.m.) on Rugaber’s report (also don’t forget that Rugaber may have had a head start on everyone else, given that AP is one of a select few news organizations which is allowed pre-embargo access to BLS releases which I believe it does not deserve to have):

The BLS April JOLTS survey was released earlier and it was ugly – of particular attention was the number of “job opening” which collapsed from 3.741MM to 3.416MM, a drop of 325,000, which just happens to be the biggest decline since May 2010. It is also the 6th largest drop in history … Adding to the dire jobs picture was the New Hires number which dropped by 160,000, the biggest sequential drop since April 2011, and finally separations, which after months of increases (remember: more separations is a good thing supposedly, meaning people are confident they can find better paying jobs elsewhere), had their biggest drop by 81,000, also the most since April 2011.

Each of the three numbers cited is the worst in a year or more. That’s a lot more than the “five months” on which Rugaber focused, and in my view are better indicators of the significance of the reported setback.

One more factoid Rugaber didn’t note: The amount of the drop mentioned in this post’s first paragraph is the largest in four years, according to the Los Angeles Times, Bloomberg, and USA Today (in case you’re missing the point, Chris, you got statistically scooped).

To his credit, Rugaber did eventually get to what I will sardonically call a “private sector is fine” update:

The drop in openings was concentrated in the private sector, and was particularly steep in professional and business services. Available jobs fell 14 percent in that category, which includes high-paying jobs such as engineers, architects and accountants, as well as lower-paying temporary jobs.

And again, this is the report for April. There’s clearly strong reason to be very concerned about what May’s JOLTS report will show.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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  1. Weds. morning links: First day of summer, in the north…

    Via Insty, 10 things not to say to someone when they’re ill The 50th Anniversary of “Silent Spring”: A Lethal Legacy Shocker: California Looks To Use Cap And Trade Revenue For Non-climate Purposes Asians Pass Latinos as Biggest Immigrant Group…

    Trackback by Maggie's Farm — June 20, 2012 @ 6:27 am

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