The economy isn't booming, but labor market fundamentals have never been so good.
The BLS Tuesday reported that April job openings were the highest ever recorded (see Chart #1). The current business cycle expansion has added 10 million net new private sector jobs to the economy since late 2007, yet businesses are looking to hire another 6.55 million. Impressive.
The unemployment rate has fallen to a mere 3.9%, and there are only 6.4 million people actively looking for work, according to the BLS. If there is a problem it is the apparent inability of those looking for work to qualify for or accept the jobs being offered. (see Chart #2) Geographical mismatches are one overlooked but likely culprit: the WSJ noted the other day that a growing number of cities around the country are paying people to relocate there because they have a shortage of able-bodied workers. And with businesses enjoying peak earnings these days, it would not be surprising for many to sweeten their salary offerings in order to fill jobs. What's not to like?
As a percent of the workforce, layoffs are now down to their lowest level ever, as shown in Chart #3. Never before has job security been so solid.
Small businesses are where by far the most new jobs are created, and the owners of those businesses have rarely been so optimistic about the future, as Chart #4 shows.
As Chart #5 shows, real disposable personal income per capita is at an all-time high of $39.5K. That is up 10% from the end of 2007 (i.e., just before the Great Recession hit), and it is just about double what it was 38 years ago, in 1980. Granted, the pace of gains in the past decade has been only about 1% per annum, which is disappointing compared to the 2.1% per annum gains of the 1980-2007 period. But we are making progress and the future looks bright.
Capital today is relatively abundant, thanks to years of growth, rising profits, and lower corporate income taxes. An abundance of capital is an unqualified boon for labor, because when capital is abundant labor sooner or later becomes scarce. This means that the price of labor is bound to rise further, and that should take the form of higher real wages and salaries, plus more job opportunities as businesses seek to ramp up investment.