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Science Careers Blog

June 3, 2010

Science, Engineering Job Ads Increase in May; Health, Education Jobs Falter

The number of online job advertisements for science and engineering staff increased in May 2010, but ads for related jobs in health care and education declined, according to data released Wednesday by The Conference Board. In April, the ratio of unemployed scientists and engineers competing for jobs posted online stayed about the same as the previous month or inched lower, continuing trends that began earlier in the year.

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

Online job ads

In May, online employment ads for scientists and engineers increased, led by computer science and mathematics specialists with more than 567,000 openings, a gain of 18,000 over April. For the first time since the Science Careers index began last summer, the number of ads for computer and math workers jumped ahead of ads for health care practitioners and technicians. It was also the single largest number of ads for any occupational category recorded in May by the Conference Board.

Online employment ads for engineers and architects also jumped in May, by nearly 13,000 to just under 160,000, a gain of 8.7% over April. Opportunities for life, physical, and social scientists also rose, but by only 1,600 to more than 87,000, a gain of less than 2%.

Ads for health care practitioner and technician jobs, which often hire people with scientific training, dropped some 13% in May to 540,000, from 623,000 in April. This category was one of the few employment bright spots during the tough economic times this past year. Opportunities for education, training, and library workers, also a category considered alternative employment for people with scientific backgrounds, dropped by 2,300 in May. Since January, ads for education, training, or library staff have either dropped or stayed flat every month.

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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 for April 2010, while the number of employment ads reported above are for May.

Among scientists and engineers, the ratio of unemployed job seekers to online ads dropped somewhat in April for two of the three occupational categories or remained about the same as March, but still favorable for those looking for work. For life, physical, and social scientists, the job market reached an important milestone in May: for the first time recently there were fewer job seekers than posted ads. For most of 2010, the number of job-seekers in this group about equaled the number of online job ads. In May, that number dropped to 0.8 job hunters per ad.

Engineers and architects also enjoyed an improved job market in April. The combination of 9000 more job ads and 7700 fewer job hunters in April lowered the competitiveness ratio to 1.2 job seekers per ad. That's a big improvement over last Fall when there were about 2 job hunters per online ad for engineers and architects. Computer scientists and mathematicians continued in April to enjoy one of the most favorable job markets, with 0.4 job hunters per online ad, a ratio that has not changed since September 2009.

While the number of online job ads for health care practitioners and technicians has fluctuated over the past 12 months, the ratio of job seekers per online opportunity in this group has stayed remarkably stable, at 0.4 or 0.3 job hunters per employment ad. For education, training, and library staff, the job market (as measured by this ratio) remains dismal, at about 5 unemployed job seekers per online ad -- the only ratio tracked by Science Careers that is higher than the ratio for U.S. workers overall.

For the U.S. in general, the number of online employment ads stayed about the same from April to May, at just over 4 million. In April a slight increase in the number of job seekers to 15,260,000 was more than matched by nearly 223,000 more job ads that month, to tighten somewhat the competitiveness ratio from 3.8 to 3.7 job hunters per online ad.

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