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Alan Kotok ,

Job Ads for Scientists and Engineers Jump in December

The number of online employment ads for scientists, engineers, and related occupations all increased in December. The numbers of unemployed job-hunters in these occupations also increased, keeping the ratios — and, hence, the ease or difficulty of finding a job — about the same as before. The Conference Board, a private business and economic research institute, provides these data, which are tracked monthly by Science Careers.

Ads for computer and mathematical science jobs climbed by 23,300 in December, the third straight monthly gain. Postings for life, physical, and social scientists increased by 4300 in December, reversing an extended decline that began in September. The number of job ads for engineers and architects also rose, by 9200 — the second consecutive monthly increase for engineers and architects; before November, these occupations suffered 4 straight months of declines.

Ads for healthcare practitioners and technicians, positions sometimes sought by scientists and engineers, increased by 45,100 in December to more than 541,000. This 9% increase in opportunities reversed declines in October and November. Postings for education, training, and library workers at all levels — another source of employment for some scientists — also rose in December, by 8.7%, to 75,000.

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The Conference Board report computes a ratio of online ads to the number of unemployed workers in the job market for these categories, an indicator of job-market competitiveness. The most current unemployment data, taken from Bureau of Labor Statistics’ reports, are a month older than the job-ad numbers, so the ratios calculated below are from November, a month earlier than the numbers cited above.

In all of the occupational categories tracked by Science Careers, the number of unemployed job-seekers increased in November, reversing two months of declines for some groups. As a result, the ease or difficulty of finding a job stayed at about the same level as in October. The Conference Board’s report does not give reasons for entering or leaving the cohort of job hunters.  

Candidates for computer and mathematical science jobs had one of the better job-search environments in November, where for each unemployed job seeker employers posted 2.5 online ads, about the same ratio as in October. Many other job seekers had a tougher time in November: Candidates looking for life, physical, and social science jobs found a declining number of job ads at the same time as nearly 81,000 new job hunters entered the market. As a result, the ratio of job-seekers to ads rose to 1.2:1.

Engineers and architects looking for work also ran into nearly 7000 new job-seekers in November, but for this group at least the number of job ads increased a little (about 3500), which kept the ratio of job hunters to posted ads at about 2 to 1. Education, training, and library job seekers have one of the most difficult job-hunting situations currently, with about 6.5 unemployed workers for each advertised position. A modest increase of 1200 job ads in November didn’t provide much relief.

Perhaps the best job-hunting environment in the country for any occupational group is for healthcare practitioners and technicians, where in November each unemployed job seeker could choose from nearly 3 posted positions, on average. This 1-to-3 ratio continued in November despite a decline in ads of 37,000 for these positions.

For the country as a whole, the number of online employment ads in December increased by 255,400, more than double the number of new job ads recorded in November. So, the total number of job hunters remained about the same in November as it was in the previous month, resulting in a slight decrease in the ratio of job hunters to posted ads, from 4.8 in October to 4.5 in November.