Job market crowded with 6 people looking for every available job

According to data from the Labor Department, the U.S. job market is tougher than ever. USA Today reports the results of new research which shows that there are 6.3 people looking for every single job available in the country.

This is in sharp contrast to the 1.2 people looking per job in 2001, and even from the 1.7 per job back when the recession started in late 2007.

Even when compared with job search data from the recession earlier this decade, the stats look grim. Back during the height of the "jobless" recovery in 2003, there were 2.8 job seekers for each available position. In total, around 7.2 million jobs have vanished over the course of this recession, and economists say that until this trend reverses, the economy will be in prolonged trouble.

Heidi Shierholz, an economist with the Economic Policy Institute interviewed by USA Today, says this abnormally high ratio of job-seekers is a bad sign.

Although recent reports point to some encouraging signs in that fewer jobs were lost in September and that the overall rate of job loss appears to be slowing, we're not nearly out of the woods yet, and here's why: Although employers shed large numbers of jobs at the outset of the recession, productivity has picked up, which means they'll be less likely to rehire people even after demand starts to pick up again. In addition, the Wall Street Journal reports that manufacturing is contracting, which could lead to further job losses in the future.

The large number of job seekers means that if a worker loses his or her job, they'll have an exceptionally tough time landing another one, and the longer someone is out of the workforce, the tougher it is for them to re-enter it.

Economists also predict that more Americans will lose their jobs before the recession is over; unemployment is expected to rise again in September, and the Congressional Budget Office predicts the unemployment rate will top out at 10.2% next year and remain at greater than 9% into 2011.

A slower rate of job losses is good, but for the economy to truly recover, we're going to need up to 10 million jobs, according to the Economic Policy Institute's Shierholz. Unfortunately, at this point it's not clear where those badly needed jobs are going to come from, and when we'll get them.
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