U.S. Job Outlook: Maybe You Should Become An Actor

Last Updated Jan 14, 2010 12:13 PM EST

In addition to the well-publicized measures of unemployment, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) also reports each month the turnover in jobs, through a program with the acronym JOLTS. Sorry, folks, but there is no ray of sunshine in the January 12 report: although job turnover in the U.S. was up a little for November, the number of openings was down after strengthening for two months. And the number of people quitting their jobs held steady in November, at two million. But for readers in the fields of arts and entertainment, your ship may be coming in.

I was hoping that there might be some good news in these turnover numbers, that the number of openings was increasing, or hiring had picked up. But the Job Opening and Labor Turnover System report for November -- it's a month behind the unemployment numbers -- was rather droopy.

Job openings are falling again, after firming in September and October. In percentage terms, they're a little more than half of their level a year ago:


Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Here's a look at the rates of hiring and separation -- hiring is headed in the right direction, but it's more than offset by terminations:


Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Here's a high-level look at what's happening in different industries. The only area where hiring outpaces separations is business services (that's where the temporary jobs appear):


Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Another look at the details, table 6 of the JOLTS release, if you're interested, tells us that of all industries, hiring has picked up the most in Arts, Entertainment and Recreation (a hiring rate of 5.3 percent in November 2009, versus 3.6 percent a year ago). I don't know whether this means ballerinas and opera singers, or movie theatre ushers, but that hiring rate is even higher than for temporary help.

Last, a report from on the ground in Philadelphia, where my friend David monitors the employment situation through the lens of a temp agency he walks by on his way to work:

In December, there was no sign in the window for applications, but I went in and asked, and they said they were taking some anyway. Then about a week ago, the sign was up, saying they were taking applications for office and clerical positions. Nothing yet for light industrial - it said "We are only accepting applications for clerical positions at this time. If you are seeking light industrial work, please call to inquire about job availability or come back at another time."
Don't give up your day job.