Record job openings, but how many are real?

I’ll sometimes reference the number of job openings when discussing the state of the economy.

But I caught a snippet on the radio* this morning about how many of the posted jobs aren’t real. Companies may just be collecting resumes to look at job descriptions, to feel out availability before bidding on contract work (I see this with government contracting), to gain intelligence on other businesses, etc. It’s easier than ever to post a job and machine-analyze resumes.

I’m stumped as to how to figure this into the state of employment and of the economy. We’re seeing demand pressure on wages, so it’s not all fluff, but I’m not sure how to do more than just acknowledge the phenomenon.

*I’m traveling and have no idea what station it was. Sounded like public radio of some deacription

Another thing to keep in mind is that even if there is a real opening, it will be listed more than once. A company may run an ad in four or five different places, but know they only need to hire one person. Do these figures take that into account?

I think most of the statistics on the increasing availability of jobs comes from the measure of the unemployment rate which wouldn’t be influenced by want ad’s that led to no hires.

I have no doubt that the labor market is doing well. The business cycle is just continuing what it started under the Obama administration, and the tax cut might be additionally juicing the economy with a short termsugar rush.

They do. It’s a good question though because that would totally screw with the numbers.

The numbers are not from postings but from the BLS’ Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, JLT or JOLTS.
I confess I have not thoroughly scrutinized their methodology.

For sure the unemployment rates (plural because I like to look at both U3 and U6) are important – I had just gotten to thinking about this other number because of whatever I heard on the radio this morning.

We’ll also sometimes look at the ratio of unemployed people per job opening, which was in the news recently for dropping below 1.

As you note, it’s a survey.
From their FAQ

While openings on company job boards are far from accurate, I don’t see why a surveyed company would lie in the survey. We had budgeted headcount and actual headcount, so computing job openings would be pretty trivial.

In the Bay Area where I live nearly every store and fast food joint has a job opening posted in their window, so I suspect that there are lots of openings for real.