As reported in the New York Times, the Department of Labor recently released its Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey. The survey asks employers about changes in their workforce over the past month: how many employees they started with, how many employees left or were hired, and how many employees they had at the end of the month.

The statistics show that the rate of involuntary separations — firings and layoffs – has stayed really low. Just over 1% of the total workforce were discharged or laid off in February 2013, the month for which the survey collected data. In fact, more employees quit voluntarily than were fired or laid off. However, the survey also revealed that hiring rates remain low, at 3.3%. With total separations, voluntary and involuntary, at 3.1%, you can see why the monthly job numbers continue to disappoint.

Among other things, these numbers mean that the unemployed are still quite likely to stay that way. There are just too few jobs opening up to absorb everyone who is looking for work. In response to this continuing problem, a few states and local governments — most recently, New York City — have passed laws prohibiting discrimination against the unemployed. Although these laws don’t magically expand the number of available jobs, they at least attempt to level the playing field by prohibiting employers from excluding those who are currently unemployed from consideration when hiring. For more information about these laws, and possible discrimination claims based on unemployed status, check out Discrimination Against the Unemployed.