Measuring the Demand for Labor in the United States: The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey

Kelly A. Clark and Rosemary Hyson


The United States has had a strong and much publicized economic indicator of labor supply-the unemployment rate-for decades. The Federal Reserve, Wall Street, and the public pay close attention to the unemployment numbers released every month by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). When combined with other economic indicators, the unemployment rate serves as a reasonable measure of labor market activity, general economic conditions, and labor supply. A parallel measure of labor demand is required to allow thorough analysis of the U.S. labor market and to show how changes in labor supply and demand affect the overall economy.In 1999, the Bureau of Labor Statistics began developing this long-needed economic indicator to assess the excess demand for labor in the U.S. labor market in the form of the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS).