According to Department of Labor (DOL) statistics, American workers are less likely to be laid off today than at any point in the last 50 years. For every 10,000 people in the workforce, 66 claimed first time unemployment benefits last month (July 2017). That is the lowest rate on record since 1967, the year DOL began tracking such figures. Before this year, the previous low point (83 per 10,000) was set in April of 2000 at the height of a tech bubble.
The layoff rate is a lesser known government statistic compared to its cousin the unemployment rate. Brad Tuttle at Money.com explains the difference:
While the unemployment rate measures the percentage of the population that’s actively out of work and seeking employment, the layoff rate is more of an indicator of job security—tracking the percentage of workers laid off in a given month. And clearly, job security in the U.S. is pretty darn high right about now. Mind you, that’s great only if you have a job. We must note that neither the unemployment or laid-off rate factors in the unusually high percentage of American adults who aren’t working and aren’t seeking jobs, nor the number of workers stuck in part-time or “gig economy” jobs because they’ve been unable to find traditional full-time employment.
What Brad alludes to is that the unemployment rate and the layoff rate are indeed both low, but so is the labor force participation rate. That government number measures the percentage of the population that is either employed or unemployed (people working or actively seeking work). The participation rate has been below 63% since 2013 – the lowest percentage in a generation. Therefore, the great numbers on unemployment and layoffs have to be measured against the fact that we have fewer people seeking work.
The fact that there are currently 7 million unemployed and 6.2 million job openings in the country provide a more in depth view of the actual complexities of the current job market and why positions can be so difficult to fill. The limited available talent is not matching up with the needed skills for so many open positions. Providing better training for workers seeking employment and engaging participation among available workers could benefit the economy.