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Posted Science and Engineering Jobs Continued to Decline in October

The number of online employment ads for scientists and engineers continued to decline in October, reflecting overall weakness in the U.S. job market. In some cases these losses were offset by declining numbers of job-seekers, according to a monthly index of online opportunities compiled (with seasonal adjustments) by The Conference Board, a private business and economic research institute, and tracked by Science Careers.

The only good news in an otherwise grim report was the number of online ads for computer scientists and mathematicians, which increased to more than 409,000 in October, up 7200 from September. Ads for life, physical, and social scientists dropped by 1100 in October to 69,200, and opportunities for engineers and architects continued the monthly declines that started in June, dropping another 900 postings to 113,300.

In the related career category of health care practitioners and technicians, the decline in online employment ads from September to October was particularly steep, dropping by almost 69,000 — more than 11% — to 535,600. This category had been one of the bright spots in the overall U.S. jobs picture, increasing by 86,000, or 16.5%, during August and September.

In another related occupation group — education, training, and library workers — the news is a little better. The number of employment ads increased by 4400 in October, a gain over September of nearly 7%. The number of ads in this category had dropped by about this same number in both August and September.

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The report also includes a ratio of online ads to the number of
unemployed workers in the job market for these categories, an
indicator of job-market competitiveness. The most current unemployment data, derived from Bureau of Labor Statistics’ reports, are a month older than the job ads numbers, in this case for September 2009. So the ratios calculated below are from September, a month earlier than the numbers cited above.

Among the main science and engineering groups tracked by Science Careers, the number of unemployed job-seekers declined in September, which in some cases eased the tightness of the job market in those categories. (The reports do not give reasons for declining numbers of job-seekers.) Among life, physical, and social scientists, the number of job-seekers dropped from 83,100 in August to 71,500 in September, a decline of 14%. Meanwhile, the number of online ads in this category declined slightly from August, so the job market for these scientists improved a little, according to this measure, to the point where the number of job seekers approximately equaled the number of posted opportunities.

Something similar happened among engineers and architects. The number of job-seekers in this group declined by more than 11% in September to 233,200. So even though the number of job ads declined by 3300, the job market ratio improved slightly from the perspective of those looking for jobs; in September there were 2 engineers or architects for each posted job, slightly better than in August.

Among computer scientists and mathematicians, the number of unemployed job seekers hardly changed in September. Even though the number of online employment ads declined by 4200, the number of posted jobs (402,000) comfortably exceeded the number job-hunters (236,100).

In the related career category of health care practitioners and technicians, both the number of job-seekers and the number of online ads increased in September. The result was 2.73 posted jobs for each job seeker. That ratio will likely change for October, given last month’s sharp drop in the number of posted ads. 

Among education, training, and library workers, the job market ratio for September ballooned to 7 job seekers for each posted opportunity, as the number of job ads in September declined by 4200 compared to August and the number of job seekers jumped 29% to more than 442,000.

By comparison, the job-market ratio for the U.S. overall inched up in September to 4.5 job-hunters for each posted job ad. In October,  the total number of online ads posted dropped by 83,200 to less than 3.3 million. So don’t look for much overall improvement in the October ratios.