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Conference Board Analysis

In August, a (slightly) down month for online job ads

In August, the number of job ads posted online, overall and in
science-related categories, declined a little after healthy gains the previous month. And  in July — the last month for which detailed unemployment data is
available — the aforementioned healthy increase in job ads, and a modest decline in the number
of unemployed job-seekers, indicate a slight improvement in the
employment market.

This July performance is consistent with a steady upward trend, lasting about 14 months, in the
strength of the job market for scientists. That, anyway, is our
interpretation of the numbers from the Conference Board, released earlier this month.

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

Online job ads

In August, the
number of online job ads posted in July in the science-related
categories we track declined by 42,600, or 2.8%, month over month. 

Taking a
longer view reveals progress. In all
the
categories we track, 220,200 more job ads were posted in August 2010 than were posted a
year earlier, an increase of nearly 18%. Keep reading to learn how
the
numbers break down by category.

In percentage terms, the best performing category last month was the one most relevant to Science Careers readers: life, physical, and social science, which showed a 3.1% increase in the number of posted ads — 2800 more ads in August in this category than a month before. Compared to August 2009, the increase was 21,800 job ads, or about 30%, indicating that the market for scientists is much stronger than it was a year ago.

The only other category to show a month-over-month increase in the number of job ads posted online was the education, training, and library, which added about 700 ads, or 0.8%. 

The category health-care
practitioners and technical
had its second straight bad month, falling 5.5% following a 3.1% dip the month before.  

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 Job market competitiveness

The Conference
Board computes a job-market competitiveness measure, the ratio of
online ads to the number of unemployed workers in the job market for
various categories. But because 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, the ratios calculated below are from July
2010, so they’re a month older than the numbers for online job ads described above. We report the ratio of job seekers to job ads in each category, so a lower number means better opportunities. 

In July, in the number of job ads in all categories dipped, as did the number of ads in science-related categories. But the new Conference Board report reveals that these gains were more than offset by a reduction in the the
number of unemployed job-seekers. The result: over all science-related
categories, the ratio of job seekers to job ads improved a little declining from 0.7 to 0.6 job seekers per online employment ad, reversing the increase of the previous month. That means that in all these categories there are approximately 2 job seekers for every 3 ads, slightly better than in June.

The best performance was in the category where the job prospects are the worst: education, training, and library.  But things improved dramatically for job seekers in this category, from 4.3 job seekers per ad to 3.6 job-seekers per ad in the course of just one month. This remains by far the worst category we track — it’s the only science-related category in which the ratio of job-seekers to ads is more than 1 — but it’s now only slightly worse than the job market as a whole, in which the ratio of job-seekers to online job ads is 3.4. 

Another category that made a notable move in July is computer and mathematical science, which saw the ratio of job seekers to online ads decline from 0.4 to 0.3. With 3 ads for every job seeker, that starts to look like a pretty tight market; then again, this is the category where job ads are the most likely to be posted online.

All the other categories saw the ratio either increase slightly (life, physical, and social science; architecture and engineering) or decrease slightly (health care practitioners and technical).

Except for education, training, and library (which includes
science-related jobs but also jobs with nothing to do with science), the ratio of job-seekers to
ads in the science-related categories we track remains far better
than the average across the whole economy. In July, the average for
these science-related categories was 0.6 job seekers per online job ad.
For the economy as a whole, the ratio was 3.4, which is slightly better
than June’s 3.5. It may seem like a very tough job market, but over all in these science-related categories the odds of landing a job are more than 5 times better than the odds the average job seeker is faced with.

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Jim Austin Tweets as @SciCareerEditor