Why It's So Hard to Find a Job Right Now

Via Catherine Rampell, we have this handy breakdown of the job market that paints a picture somewhere between distressing and ulcer-inducing. Layoffs are obviously a huge problem, but as Catherine explains, they're not the problem. For unemployed folks looking for a culprit, it's not the firings, it's the hirings.

The hiring rate (defined as the number of new job hires per 100 employed people) continues to fall past its lowest recorded levels. Here's a graph for that, from May 2009.
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Now let's take a look at firings over the same period. As David Leonhardt pointed out, firings have been rotten, but not so much more rotten than the 2001 recession. Here's a graph for that.
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Finally, Catherine kindly compares job openings to unemployed workers. The calculations are admittedly imprecise, since these figures are coming from two separate estimates, but it's an important approximation because it gives us a sense of how competitive the scene has become for people looking to get back into the job market.
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Today there are 5.7 unemployed workers for every nonfarm job opening, she notes. That's more than twice the high from the 2001 recession, even though, let's remember, the rate of firings these days is not markedly higher.