The Week Ahead: The other major jobs report

February 8, 2014 

If you're looking for a job, the odds are stacked against you. There are more than twice as many people officially unemployed in the America than there are job openings. But those odds may be slowly improving.

On Tuesday, the government's other monthly jobs data report will be released. Instead of counting heads of who is working and who isn't, the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS, counts job openings, firings, job switchers and job quitters. It isn't as well followed nor as influential as the monthly unemployment report, but the statistics help round out the job picture in America. And that picture is increasingly less discouraging.

While the unemployment rate has fallen thanks in part to people dropping out of the workforce, more workers are seemingly gaining confidence that they can get new work. More workers voluntarily quit their jobs in November than any month since Lehman Brothers collapsed into bankruptcy. While there are plenty of reasons to walk away from a job, presumably one reason is because there's a better job waiting. And there are more jobs waiting. Job openings in November hit a five-and-a-half-year high.

The survey is important, too, for the new chairman of the Federal Reserve. Janet Yellen has cited the JOLTS data among her favored barometers to gauge the central bank's effect on employment.

Focusing on any single month of jobs data fuels a myopic view of employment and the economy. The job market is both too complex and too personal to reflect reality for everyone. But odds are that reality is improving for more people.

Tom Hudson, financial journalist, hosts "The Sunshine Economy" on WLRN-FM in Miami, where he is the vice president of news. He is the former co-anchor and managing editor of "Nightly Business Report."

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