The government's headline employment report recently showed 156,000 jobs added last month. The other report showed 5.2 million new hires in the most recent month. The more newsworthy report suggests very slow growth: 156,000 on a base of 145,000,000, or just 11 hundredths of one percent. The other report implies 3.6 percent gain. They are both accurate, but measure different things. The second report emphasizes an important point: our economy remains very dynamic.
Those 5.21 million new hires in the Job Openings and Labor Turnover report are offset by 4.95 million separations: quits, dismissals or deaths. The net does not exactly match the Current Employment report because they are separate surveys, each with its own statistical error.
The important lesson is that our economy is continually changing, and the changes are large. Some companies are hiring, and that was true even in the depths of the last recession. In June 2009, total hires were 3.7 million. (Easy access to the data courtesy of the FRED database.) Unfortunately, June 2009 also saw 2.1 million layoffs and discharges, plus another 1.8 million voluntary quits (including retirements).
We often think of the economy in simplistic terms: no companies are hiring now, nobody would quit in a recession, there are no job openings even for people who are looking hard. The reality is more complicated.
When we think of the overall business cycle, as reflected in total employment, we should also recognize substantial churn. Health care is on an upward trend as newspaper employment is on a downward trend. High tech is in a boom, but some tech companies still go bankrupt. Oil company profits are down by a great amount, but some companies … well, some companies are not down so much. Sometimes a major industry trend is too great for anyone to buck, but generally there are gainers even in a weak industry.
Companies selling B-to-B should always scan their customers and prospects to determine which are doing well. There invariably will be some.
People looking for jobs should recognize that there is always someone hiring. Scope out which industries are expanding (available in the detailed tables of both employment reports). Moving to a more vibrant region may also be helpful - and occasionally necessary - to job seekers.