Are jobs hard to get? The answer to that question is provided once a month in the Conference Board’s survey of consumer confidence. I think that this is among the most important data generated by this survey and the similar one conducted by the Survey Research Center at the University of Michigan.
I am expecting to see fewer respondents to the Conference Board’s survey saying that jobs are hard to get. I reckon this will happen before mid-year. That’s because the response rate to this question tends to lag initial unemployment claims by about 6-12 months. During economic recoveries, the pace of firing tends to drop, as indicated by falling jobless claims. Then, with a lag, the pace of hiring starts to pick up, as indicated by the decline in the percentage of respondents saying that jobs are hard to get.
In other words, the initial unemployment claims series tends to be a leading indicator for the labor market. (It is, in fact, one of the 10 components of the index of leading economic indicators.) But it’s the jobs-hard-to-get series that confirms that labor market conditions are improving enough to have boosted net employment gains. Not surprisingly, the jobs-hard-to-get response is highly correlated with the number of unemployed workers. (More for subscribers.)