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Alan Kotok , ,

More Science Job Hunters Chase Increasing Help-Wanted Ads

The number of online job ads for science, engineering, and related occupations continued to climb in January 2010. But as reported last month, plenty of unemployed job seekers are returning to the job market to keep the hunt for these jobs at least as competitive as before. The Conference Board, a private business and economic research institute, provides these data, which are tracked monthly by Science Careers.

Online job ads

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Jobs in computer science and mathematics continue to lead the other groups in the numbers of new positions posted online. In January, more than 40,000 new ads for these jobs were recorded, a 9% increase over December and the biggest monthly gain since Science Careers began tracking these data in July 2009. Online ads for engineers and architects increased by more than 10,000 or 8% in January, the third monthly gain in a row and also the largest increase in new ads since July 2009. Likewise, posted ads for the life, physical, and social sciences increased by nearly 4,000, a 5% jump and the second consecutive monthly gain for this group.

Ads for jobs related to science and engineering work also showed healthy increases in January. Postings for health care practitioners and technical positions, one of the few employment bright spots during this recession, increased by more than 24,000, a 5% jump. Online ads for education, training, and library workers at all levels increased by nearly 11,000 in January, an increase of 14%, its largest monthly gain since the Science Careers tracking began in July.

Job market competitiveness

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The Conference Board provides a gauge of job-market competitiveness — a ratio of online ads to the number of unemployed workers in the job market — for these categories. However, the most up-to-date 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 December 2009, a month earlier than the numbers cited above.

During December, the number of unemployed job-seekers added to the labor market in three of the five science, engineering and related categories increased to match the number of increased job ads that month, keeping the the ratio of job hunters to ads at about the same level as November. The number of unemployed engineers and architects looking for work in December remained at about double the number of online ads for these positions. However, two categories continued to enjoy the enviable condition of having more job ads than unemployed workers: There were 2.8 computer science and mathematics ads, and 3.3 health care practitioner and technician ads, for each unemployed job-hunter in those categories, about the same as the previous month.

For life, physical, and social science job seekers, their job market became somewhat more competitive in December. That month saw more than 20,000 life, physical, and social science job hunters added to the market, while only 4,500 more job adds were posted. This imbalance increased the ratio of job-hunters to posted jobs from 1.2 in November to 1.4 in December. Earlier in 2009, there were about equal numbers of job-seekers and online job ads in this category, but the trend the last two months of 2009 was towards more candidates rather than more jobs.

Among education, training, and library workers, the trend is moving in the favor of job-hunters, but the market for these staff remains bleak. In September there were seven job hunters for each education, training, and library job ad. By December, that ratio had dropped below six (5.8) unemployed workers for each job ad. Despite the encouraging trend, this is the only category of the five tracked by Science Careers with a job market ratio greater than the U.S. as a whole.

For the U.S. overall, the number of posted job ads jumped nearly 382,000 in January, a 10.5% gain. In December, the number of online job ads outpaced the number of unemployed workers looking for jobs, which brought down the job-seeker to job ratio to 4.2 from 4.5 in November.