The Mystery of the Tight Labor Market

The Wall Street Journal reports on the strength of the job market:

Americans are less likely to be laid off than at any point in at least 50 years….The steep fall in layoffs is mainly a result of a vastly improved labor market. It means Americans have more job security than they may realize less than a decade after dismissals spiked in the 2007-2009 recession….After nearly seven years of consistent job growth, firms are reluctant to let employees go in a tight labor market in which available workers with a recent employment history are quickly snapped up.

The Journal is right about all this. Here’s a summary of the Labor Department’s JOLTS data since the end of the recession:

Layoffs are going down. That’s good. Initial unemployment claims are going down. That’s good. Voluntary quits are going up. That’s good, because it signals that people are confident about finding a new job (or have already been recruited away into one). And job openings are up. That’s good, because it means there are more opportunities for job seekers.

And yet, we still have this chart that I posted on Friday:

There are lots of job openings; managers report trouble finding workers; and voluntary quits are up. Despite all this, though, wages have barely moved. The most obvious way to fill job openings and keep people from quitting is to raise wages, but that hasn’t happened.

There really is something of a mystery here. Nearly all the data points to a tight labor market with the exception of the single most important bit of data: wages. Rising wages are the clearest sign of a tight labor market, but we’re not seeing them. Not at the working and middle-class level, anyway. What’s going on?

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THE FACTS SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES.

At least we hope they will, because that’s our approach to raising the $350,000 in online donations we need right now—during our high-stakes December fundraising push.

It’s the most important month of the year for our fundraising, with upward of 15 percent of our annual online total coming in during the final week—and there’s a lot to say about why Mother Jones’ journalism, and thus hitting that big number, matters tremendously right now.

But you told us fundraising is annoying—with the gimmicks, overwrought tone, manipulative language, and sheer volume of urgent URGENT URGENT!!! content we’re all bombarded with. It sure can be.

So we’re going to try making this as un-annoying as possible. In “Let the Facts Speak for Themselves” we give it our best shot, answering three questions that most any fundraising should try to speak to: Why us, why now, why does it matter?

The upshot? Mother Jones does journalism you don’t find elsewhere: in-depth, time-intensive, ahead-of-the-curve reporting on underreported beats. We operate on razor-thin margins in an unfathomably hard news business, and can’t afford to come up short on these online goals. And given everything, reporting like ours is vital right now.

If you can afford to part with a few bucks, please support the reporting you get from Mother Jones with a much-needed year-end donation. And please do it now, while you’re thinking about it—with fewer people paying attention to the news like you are, we need everyone with us to get there.

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