Labor market churn remains slow, going on five years after the official end of the 2007-09 recession. The number of hires, at 4.5 million, changed little between October and November. Total separations, including layoffs, quits and discharges, also hardly budged, according to the BLS' Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey.
The rate of workers quitting, which is often viewed by investors and government officials as an indication of workers' confidence in the availability of jobs, was also mostly unchanged in November. Over the past 12 months, the quits rate has increased from 1.6 to 1.8 percent.
Those numbers remain severely depressed from pre-crisis levels, when both hires and separations would regularly check in at more than 5 million a month.
The number of unemployed workers for every job opening, which hovered near 1.5 before the crisis hit, totaled 2.7 in November. That high number, however, represents significant if slow improvement over the course of the recovery. The ratio peaked near seven in mid-2009.
At the current pace of hiring and firing, the left-leaning Hamilton Project estimates it could take longer than five years for the U.S. to close the gap of roughly 8 million jobs needed for a health economy.
In recent months, Federal Reserve officials have indicated a heightened interest in JOLTS data as a complement to the unemployment rate in understanding the state of the job market. The labor force participation rate has fallen to a decades-low 62.8 percent, suggesting that the labor market is weaker than the quickly falling headline unemployment rate of 6.7 percent would suggest. Having previously set 6.5 percent unemployment as a threshold for raising short-term interest rates from zero, the Fed has signaled that they now will look to other indicators such as the JOLTS for additional hints of recovery.
The White House has also drawn attention to JOLTS data in recent weeks, arguing that Congress should not allow long-term unemployment benefits to expire while the ratio of unemployed workers to job openings is so high.