First, the increase in job growth that occurred over the past two years results from a decline in the number of layoffs, not from increased hiring. In February 2009, a month during which the labor market lost more than 700,000 jobs, employers hired four million workers. In March 2011, employers hired four million workers. The number of hires is the same today as it was when we were shedding jobs at record rates.
The decline in layoffs is not unexpected and does not necessarily reflect labor-market health. Layoffs tend to occur early in a recession. When an economy has reached bottom and has already shed much of its labor, layoffs slow. But that doesn't mean that the labor force is recovering. We could have high unemployment and a stagnant labor force even when layoffs are low. Isn't the fact that hires exceed separations indicative of a healthy labor market? Unfortunately, no
Bear in mind that the U.S. labor force has more than 150 million workers or job seekers. In a typical year, about one-third or more of the work force turns over, leaving their old jobs to take new ones. When the labor market creates 200,000 jobs, it is because five million are hired and 4.8 million are separated, not because there were 200,000 hires and no job losses. When we're talking about numbers as large as five million, the net of 200,000 is small and may reflect minor, month-to-month variations in the number of hires or separations