Job Competition Rises to 9 People per Opening

At your next job interview, be sure to hold the door for the eight other people behind you applying for the same job.

Adding underemployed people—full-time job seekers working temporary jobs to pay the bills—to the number of unemployed brings the ratio of people per job opening to 8.5, according to numbers crunched by BNY ConvergEx Group. That’s up from 8.3 per opening in November and the third straight monthly increase, said BNY’s strategists, who analyzed the thorough Job Openings and Labor Turnover treatise released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics Tuesday.

“In our thinking, however, it is more useful to use the ‘underemployed’ stat as the numbers of workers employed part-time for economic reasons and marginally attached/discouraged workers have shown no signs of improvement,” wrote Beth Reed, part of Nicholas Colas’ strategy team at BNY ConvergEx. “Until we see consistent improvement in hirings and available positions, we can’t say the jobs picture is getting brighter.”

Last Friday’s jobs report showed just a 36,000 increase in non-farm payrolls, far below economists’ consensus call for a 140,000 increase. But the stock market shook off that miss, rising that day and every trading day since, as economists blamed the harsher weather, not an economic setback, for the slowing in hiring.

However, it’s difficult to tell from government figures if there is a lack of hiring by companies, increasing productivity or simply a growing amount of workers not being counted because of their status. The answer could change the outlook on the market for investors, many of whom believe that at this stage of an economic recovery employment must start to steadily improve for it to continue.

“The dynamic still seems to be that in order to maintain margins, corporations must keep labor costs low,” said Brian Kelly, founder of Kanundrum Capital and a ‘Fast Money’ trader.

But some companies are saying they will be adding to payrolls this year. In January, Google said it will add 6,000 jobs in 2011. The problem is, after saying that, Google received 75,000 applications in a single week.

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