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Alan Kotok ,

Online Ad Trends for Scientists and Engineers Were Mixed in July

Keeping track of current trends in job markets is a difficult business. One approach that’s more promising than most is tracking online job ads. Long-term trends in technology (e.g., the rise of social media and the decline of static ads) may skew the results over time, but month-to-month trends are likely to be meaningful.

The Conference Board tracks these statistics, and their index of online help-wanted ads for July had a little good news for scientists and health care professionals, but bad news for engineers and architects.

The number of online employment ads for life scientists, physical scientists, and social scientists increased by 2,300 to nearly 67,000 in July 2009 compared to June–a healthy 3.5% increase. Ads for computer scientists and mathematicians increased slightly, with about 1,100 more jobs listed in July 2009, to 397,800. In both of these categories, the numbers of online help-wanted ads exceeded the number of job seekers reported for June by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for that month. That’s the good news.

The bad news is for engineers and architects, who face much bleaker prospects, according to the Conference Board. The number of online employment ads for engineers and architects declined by 4,000 in July, to 117,700. Worse, in June there were about about 1.6 job-hunters for every online ad.

Related categories had mixed results. The number of online education, training, and library employment ads increased by 3,700 in July, to 71,300, but it’s still an extremely tight market: There were still 4.7 job seekers for every online ad in this grouping. In contrast, there were more than 2 ads for each job hunter in the health professions and practitioners group–but the trend is in the wrong direction: In July, the number of ads in this category dropped by nearly 4,000 compared to June.

The Conference Board is a private business and economic research institute. Its index of online help-wanted ads is published monthly.