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Conference Board Analysis

Labor Demand Way Down in July

One of the employment metrics we track at Science Careers is the Conference Board’s Help Wanted Online survey, a monthly survey which tracks the number of online job ads. This report measures changes in the number of job ads posted online, breaks them down by category, and compares them to unemployment numbers from the previous month (the latest category-specific data available from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics) to measure the vigor of the current employment market.

First, the big news for scientists: Between May and June, the number of unemployed job-seekers in the Life, Physical, and Social Science category rose by a stunning 11.4%.

In another category of interest to those seeking science employment, over the same period, the number of unemployed job-seekers in Computer and Mathematical Science increased by nearly 4.6%.

What about those online job ads? The overall number was way down in July.

In July, the number of online job ads fell by 159,000 compared to June, offsetting most of the June increase. In percentage terms, the drop is not large–the July number is just 0.3% smaller than the June number–but the trend is in the wrong direction and significantly offsets gains from earlier in the year.

For scientists, the news is even worse. In the tiny “Life, Physical, and Social Science” category, job ads declined by 1500. Doesn’t sound like much, but when the total number of ads is just 73,400, that’s a
pretty significant chunk, about 2%–much worse, in percentage terms, than the market overall. 

In the Computer and Mathematical Science, category, the number of job ads posted online was down 21,800, more than 3%.

Despite this setback, the overall trend among all job categories has been in the right direction, however weakly, for about 3 years, and it’s slowly picking up steam. So far this year, the number of online job ads has increased by an average of 67,000 per month. That’s not many, but it’s larger than the monthly average for the previous year–50,000–which in turn was larger than the 2010 monthly average of 39,000.

The month’s big employment news comes on Friday when the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases it’s monthly Employment Situation Summary, which is based on its two big employment surveys, the Household Survey and the Establishment Survey. These are the surveys that determine the official number of new jobs added (or lost) and the nationwide unemployment rate. Stay tuned.