No one is hiring, but no one is firing, either. That's how I'd interpret this morning's two jobs reports.

First was the monthly employment report from ADP and Macroeconomic Advisors, which shows the private sector shed 10,000 jobs in August. That's the bad news.

Next is a report from Challenger, Gray & Christmas, which shows planned layoffs in August fell to just under 35,000 -- the lowest reading since the halcyon days of June 2000. That's the good news.

And I'd call it really good news, because it shows that job-market blood-letting is probably nearing somewhat of a bottom. Combine this news with other reports that show labor productivity topping out, and it's becoming apparent that businesses have cut payrolls so deep that there's nobody left worth firing.

This chart, from the finance blog Calculated Risk, gives more depth to this subject (albeit with slightly less up-to-date figures):


An important point to make here: What's been particularly nasty about the job situation over the past few years is not necessarily the increase in layoffs, but the dearth of hiring and job openings. For those who have jobs today, job security hasn't looked this good in a while. For the unemployed, it hasn't looked this bleak in a while. That's the bifurcated economy we're dealing with today.

Layoffs hitting what look like rock-bottom levels is encouraging. But I don't think it means we're approaching a period where companies start hiring en masse. Businesses from Ford (NYSE: F) to Dow Chemical (NYSE: DOW) to Alcoa (NYSE: AA) and Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) have survived this recession by learning how to make do with less. Management teams across the globe have discovered newfound efficiencies. Giving those up and going back to the old days seems wishful thinking.

It's getting better out there. It's just still pretty bad.

Fool contributor Morgan Housel doesn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article. True to its name, The Motley Fool is made up of a motley assortment of writers and analysts, each with a unique perspective; sometimes we agree, sometimes we disagree, but we all believe in the power of learning from each other through our Foolish community. Pfizer is a Motley Fool Inside Value choice. Ford Motor is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.