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Meltdown 101: Job Competition, by the Numbers

The competition for jobs intensified in May, the government said Tuesday, as employers advertised more positions but the number of people looking for them also increased.

The Labor Department's Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey found there were 2.6 million positions available at the end of May, up from 2.5 million in April.

While that's good news, it's down from 4 million a year earlier.

The JOLTS report demonstrates that even in a recession, jobs do become available and companies hire new workers. It's part of what economists like to call "churn" in the labor market: Millions of people are hired and let go each month, even in a slow economy.

But the Labor Department's monthly employment reports, issued separately, show that companies are still cutting more jobs than they're adding.

Employers eliminated a net total of 322,000 jobs in May, the department said recently. At the same time, about 350,000 people entered the labor force, pushing the number of unemployed people to 14.5 million.

That means, on average, about 5.7 people were looking for work in May for every available job. That's up from about 5.5 in April and way up from less than two per job in December 2007, when the recession began.

Here are some other interesting details from Tuesday's JOLTS report, by the numbers.

Hard Hit

39,000: Construction jobs available in May
162,000: Construction jobs available in May 2008
91,000: Manufacturing jobs available in May
280,000: Manufacturing jobs available in May 2008

Bright Spots

537,000: Jobs open in education and health services in May, up 22,000 from April
520,000: Jobs open in professional and business services in May, up 59,000 from April
302,000: Jobs open in retail trade in May, up 97,000 from April

Still Declining

248,000: Hotel and restaurant jobs available in May, down 64,000 from April
261,000: State and local government jobs available in May, down 46,000 from April

Region by Region

545,000: Job openings in the Northeast
922,000: Job openings in the South
517,000: Job openings in the Midwest
567,000: Job openings in the West

Don't Take This Job and Shove It

1.75 million: Number of people who quit their jobs in May
2.65 million: Number who quit in May 2008

Qutting or Laid Off?

33 percent: Proportion of people leaving jobs in August 2006 who were laid off or fired
53 percent: Proportion of people leaving jobs in May 2009 who were laid off or fired
59 percent: Proportion of people leaving jobs in January 2008 who quit
40 percent: Proportion of people leaving jobs in May 2009 who quit

Churn, Baby, Churn

52.9 million: Number of hires in the 12 months ending in May
57.8 million: Number of layoffs, resignations and other separations in same period
4.9 million: Net employment loss during that time

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