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Science Careers Blog

October 5, 2009

Online Employment Ads for Scientists Decline in September (Updated)

For the past few months, Science Careers has tracked the number of online jobs advertised for scientists and engineers, as reported by The Conference Board, a private business and economic research institute. In September, the number of ads for scientists and engineers declined, compared to August, with only the related field of medical practitioners and technicians recording an increase.

Among scientists, opportunities for life, physical, and social scientists advertised online declined only slightly from their August levels, from almost 71,000 in August to 70,300 in September, less than a 1% drop. The number of ads for those scientists had risen in both July and August compared to the previous month.

Online opportunities for computer scientists and mathematicians also dropped less than 1% to about 402,000 in September, but that still represents almost 4,000 fewer ads than in August. As with the life, physical, and social scientists, the number of ads for computer and math scientists rose in July and August.

The number of online ads for engineers and architects took a bigger hit in September. Ads for these jobs declined by 3,300 to about 114,000 from August to September, a decline of 2.8%. Unlike ads for scientists, opportunities in this category declined in July and August, compared to the previous month.

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In the related field of education workers -- including training and library staff at all levels -- online ads declined by more than 4,000 in September to about 63,000, a drop of more than 6%. The number of ads for education workers declined by about the same amount in August.

The Conference Board's report does not comment on seasonal variations within occupational categories, so we do not know if these declines normally happen at this time of year in these groups.

The only bright spot in The Conference Board report was in the number of online ads for the related category of health care practitioners and technicians (health care support staff are reported separately). The number of employment ads for these workers increased by 28,000 to almost 606,000 in September, a 4.8% increase. This increase was still only about half of the nearly 60,000 more job ads for this group in August.

The Conference Board computes a ratio of online ads to the number of unemployed workers in the job market for these categories, which offers an indicator of job market competitiveness for employers and job-seekers. A ratio of less than 1.0 means there are more jobs posted online than there are unemployed workers seeking those jobs. When the ratio exceeds 1.0, there are more job seekers than online opportunities. However, this ratio is computed for the previous month, since there's a one-month lag in capturing data on unemployed workers.

In August, people seeking work as health care practitioners and technicians had the most favorable job market with a ratio of 0.3, which means there were about 3 opportunities advertised for each job-seeker. Computer scientists and mathematicians also had more posted opportunities than job-hunters in August, with 1.7 jobs for each of the nearly 236,000 in this group seeking work.

Other scientific and engineering job seekers faced a more difficult market. People seeking jobs as life, physical, and social scientists were somewhat more numerous (83,100) than the number of online jobs posted (70,900). For architects and engineers, the number of job-hunters exceeded posted jobs by more than 2-to-1.  And for education, training, and library workers, the environment was downright dismal, with about 5 job seekers for each opportunity posted online.

While it is little consolation to education workers, their plight is not that much worse than the job market overall. Nationwide, the number of online opportunities declined by nearly 102,000 in September, with 4.3 unemployed job seekers for each advertised job in August.

UPDATE, 16 October 2009. Frank Tortorici and June Shelp of The Conference Board kindly tell us that their data that we report on are indeed seasonally adjusted. Here's what they say ...

"The occupational data that is provided in the [Help-Wanted OnLine Data Series] monthly release is seasonally adjusted.  In other words, for occupational categories like life, physical, and social scientists where the academic calendar is important the seasonally adjusted data would adjust for the seasonal swings that are typical for that occupation.  Similarly, the unemployment data for the occupations is also the seasonally adjusted data.  Seasonally adjusted data is typically the data that if reported in the major federal data series for employment and unemployment as it provides the clearest picture of month-to-month changes."



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