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Conference Board Analysis

Online Job Ads: Better Overall in September, but Not in Science

In August, the number of job ads online in all employment categories increased significantly but modestly, while the number of ads in science-related categories declined, but very slightly.

And  in August — the last month for which detailed
unemployment data is
available — an increase in the number of unemployed people looking for work, coupled with a decline in the number of online job ads, resulted in an uptick in the ratio of job-seekers to online job ads, overall and in all science-related categories combined. That means that, in terms of competitiveness, the job market got slightly worse for job seekers.

This August performance is consistent with a steady upward trend, lasting about 15 months so far, 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 September, the
number of online job ads posted in the science-related
categories we track declined by 5300 compared to August, a much better performance than last month’s 42,600 decline. In percentage terms, this decline is very small, just 0.4% month over month. 

Taking a
longer view reveals progress. In all
the
categories we track, 219,700 more job ads were posted in August 2010 than were posted a
year earlier, an increase of about 18%. Keep reading to learn how
the
numbers break down by category.

In percentage terms, the best performing category last month was architecture and engineering, which showed a 5.4% increase in the number of posted ads — 9200 more ads in September than in August. Compared to September 2009, the increase
was an impressive 57%.

Also having a good month was computer and mathematical science, which added 15,200 ads, an increase of 2.7%. Year over year, this is a 46% increase in the number of online ads.

It was a down month in the category of greatest interest to most Science Careers readers: life, physical, and social science. Ads in this category declined 5.2%, or 4800. That’s 25% higher than a year earlier. 

The category health-care
practitioners and technical
had its third straight bad month, with online job ads falling 4.8%. This is the only category where the number of ads this month is smaller than it was a year earlier, and the difference is substantial, about 14.6%.  

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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 August
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 opportunity. 

In August, in the number of job ads in all categories dipped, as did the
number of ads in science-related categories. The new Conference
Board report reveals that these gains were accompanied by an increase in the the
number of unemployed job seekers. The result: Combining all science-related
categories, the ratio of job seekers to job ads got a little worse, climbing back to 0.7 job seekers per online employment ad after one month at 0.6. In all
these categories, there were, in August, approximately 2 job seekers for every 3 ads.

In August, as measured by changes in this ratio, the best performance was in the category Science Careers readers care most about, life, physical, and social science. Here, an increase in the number of job ads (remember, these numbers are from August, not September, when the number of ads declined), coupled to a decline in the number of unemployed people looking for work, resulted in a ratio of 0.7 job seekers per job add, fully two tenths better than July’s 0.9.

In contrast, education, training, and library had a very bad month in August thanks to a huge increase — 32% month over month — in the number of unemployed people seeking work. This took the ratio of job seekers per ad all the way back up to 4.7, from 3.6 a month before. 

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.

There was no change in the ratio of job seekers to job ads in any of the other science-related categories.

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 0.7 job seekers per online job ad.
For the economy as a whole, the ratio was 3.5, which is slightly worse
than July’s 3.4. It may seem like a very tough job market, but over all
in these science-related categories the odds of landing a job were nearly 5 times better in August than the odds the average job seeker encountered.

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Jim Austin Tweets as @SciCareerEditor