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Science Careers Blog

May 3, 2010

Science-Engineering Job Market Improves in March and April

Job seekers in scientific and engineering fields found the market for their skills improving over the past 2 months, according to data released today by The Conference Board. Not only did the number of online job ads in April increase for these occupations, but in March the number of unemployed job-seekers in most of these occupations decreased, easing the job hunt for those out of work.

The Conference Board, a private business and economic research institute, provides these data, which are tracked monthly by Science Careers.

Online job ads

In April, for all of the categories of scientists, engineers, and related occupations tracked by the Science Careers index, the number of online opportunities increased, in some cases substantially. This was the first across-the-board increase in posted job ads since January. Ads for computer and mathematical science staff increased the most, up 32,500 in April, a jump of 6.3%. Job ads for engineers and architects registered a solid 6% gain in April, and postings for life, physical, and social scientists followed close behind with a 5.7% increase.

In the related fields of education, training, and library workers, the number of online ads increased by just 1,700 in April, but this gain reversed two straight months of losses. Postings for health care professionals and technicians also recorded a small gain -- 3300, or 0.5% -- much smaller than March's 16% jump.

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Job market competitiveness

The Conference Board computes a job-market competitiveness measure -- a ratio of online ads to the number of unemployed workers in the job market -- for these categories. However, the most up-to-date unemployment data, taken from Bureau of Labor Statistics' reports, are a month older than the numbers for online job ads, so the ratios calculated below are a month older than the statistics noted above.

In all but one of the categories tracked by Science Careers, the number of unemployed job seekers decreased in March, making their job-hunting task at least a little easier. Computer science and mathematics job seekers were the exception, increasing by nearly 41,000 to about 224,000. For this group, however, the number of employment ads also increased in March, which kept the market favorable for job hunters, with less than 1 (0.4) job seeker for each job ad, and thus more job ads than job seekers..

In the life, physical, and social sciences, as well as in engineering and architecture, the number of job seekers decreased slightly in March, while their number of online job ads increased. As a result, the ratios of job hunters to job ads improved somewhat. Life, physical, and social science job seekers about equaled their March number of employment ads. In engineering and architecture, there were more (1.4) unemployed job hunters per job ad, but was still their most favorable ratio recorded by Science Careers since this index began last May.

In the related category of education, training, and library workers, the number of unemployed job hunters dropped substantially in March, decreasing by 43,500 to just over 82,000. This drop in job seekers more than offset a small drop in online job ads in March, which improved the ratio to 5 job-hunters for each posting. Even with this improvement, their ratio is the gloomiest tracked by Science Careers and the only one higher than the overall national average of 3.8 unemployed workers per job ad.

The most favorable job market among all of the categories followed by Science Careers is the one for health care professional practitioners and technicians, one of the few groups with more job ads than job hunters. For this group in March, not only did the number of online job ads increase by 16%, but the number of unemployed job hunters decreased by 21% or 43,000. As a result, the job market ratio for these workers improved slightly from 0.4 to 0.3 job seekers for each online posting.

The more favorable job market for science and engineering staff reflected improvements in the overall U.S. job market. The number of online employment ads increased in April by nearly 223,000, the first monthly increase since January. The number of unemployed job seekers rose only slightly overall (134,000) in March, which kept the job market ratio at 3.8 job hunters for each online opportunity.

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