Online advertised vacancies rose by 382,000 to 4,024,000 in January, according to The Conference Board Help Wanted OnLine (HWOL) Data Series released on February 1. The January rise follows a large 255,000 increase in December and a 107,000 rise in November. These increases now total almost 750,000 over the three-month period and have been widespread across the nation and are consistent with the recent strength in the GDP numbers for the 4th Quarter.

"The last three months have shown a sharp upturn in employer demand for workers," said Gad Levanon, associate director of macroeconomic research at The Conference Board. "These increases have brought us back near the labor demand levels that existed in November 2008 just prior to the huge losses resulting from the financial turmoil in the last quarter of 2008. This is very good news since these seasonally adjusted increases come in two months when we normally see employers cut back on advertising for workers."

The gap between the number of unemployed and the number of advertised vacancies in December 2009, the latest available month of unemployment numbers, stands at 11.6 million, with 4.2 unemployed for every online advertised vacancy.

Regional and State Highlights
A number of states post their largest monthly gains since the HWOL series began in 2005: California - 67,600; Florida - 25,500; New York - 20,400; Ohio - 16,600; New Jersey - 13,600

In the West, January online advertised vacancies rose by 122,500 in January with the gain of 67,600 in California. Colorado gained 14,300, its largest monthly gain since April 2007. Arizona rose 13,500, its largest gain to date. Washington rose 7,000. Among the states with smaller populations, Nevada rose 4,100, New Mexico rose 2,800, and Hawaii was up 2,000.

In the South, the region with the second largest January gain, online advertised vacancies rose by 112,700, reflecting increases in all of the most populous Southern states but Virginia. Texas gained 27,600, its largest gain since November 2005, and Florida gained 25,500, its largest monthly gain to date. North Carolina posted a record monthly increase, up 10,900, while Georgia gained 10,300, its largest gain since September 2007. Maryland was up 2,500. Virginia dropped 4,000 after experiencing its largest gain ever in December. Among the less populous states in the South, in January Oklahoma increased by 6,900, Louisiana increased by 5,900, and advertised vacancies in Kentucky increased by 5,700.

The Midwest was up 88,800, reflecting gains for all of the largest states in the region. Ohio rose 16,600 and Missouri rose 12,100, both posting their largest monthly gains since the HWOL series began in 2005. Illinois gained 14,700, its largest gain since June 2008. Michigan was up 9,100, its largest gain since December 2006. Minnesota gained 8,900, its largest gain since April 2006. Wisconsin rose 8,300, its largest gain since June 2006.

Job demand in the Northeast was up 66,300. New York and New Jersey posted record monthly increases, up 20,400 and 13,600 respectively. Massachusetts increased by 11,500 to 130,000, and Pennsylvania rose by 5,400 to 157,700. Among the states with smaller populations, in January job demand in Connecticut increased by 8,700, Rhode Island was up by 2,400, Maine rose 2,100, New Hampshire was up by 2,000, and Vermont rose 900.

The Supply/Demand rate for the U.S. in December (the latest month for which unemployment numbers are available) was at 4.19, down slightly from 4.54 in November and indicating that there are now 4.19 unemployed workers for every online advertised vacancy. Among the states, the highest Supply/Demand rate continues to be in Michigan (9.07), where there are over 9 unemployed people for every advertised vacancy. Other states where there are over 6 unemployed for every advertised vacancy are Mississippi (7.92), Kentucky (6.88), and Indiana (6.19). States with some of the lowest rates include Nebraska (1.56), South Dakota (1.65) and Alaska (1.69).

It should be noted that the Supply/Demand rate only provides a measure of relative tightness of the individual state labor markets and does not suggest that the occupations of the unemployed directly align with the occupations of the advertised vacancies.

Occupational Highlights

  • Labor demand for Office and Administrative Support occupations picks up
  • Demand continues for Sales and Related occupations
  • Jobs for Healthcare Support occupations remained high throughout the recession

Among the top 10 occupation groups with the largest number of online advertised vacancies, Office and Administrative Support occupations posted the largest January gain, up 74,100.

"Job demand in this occupational group lay flat for all of 2009 but picked up in December and January," said Levanon.

The increases in the last two months reflect postings for a wide variety of administrative occupations including executive secretaries/administrative assistants, office clerks, and customer service representatives.

"The upward trend in Sales and Related occupations, which was up 26,800 in January, began somewhat earlier and has been rising since October," Levanon noted.

Advertised vacancies in Management occupations were up 54,500 in January to 427,400. Largely responsible for the increase were sales managers, computer and information systems managers, financial managers, and general and operations managers. The number of unemployed, however, continues to exceed the number of advertised vacancies, and in December there were over two unemployed (2.07) for every online advertised vacancy in the management field.

Computer and Mathematical Science professions rose 40,600 in January to 514,700. Largely responsible for the increase were computer software engineers (applications), computer systems analysts, computer specialists, and web developers.

Labor demand for Healthcare Support occupations rose 6,500 to 119,000. Demand for Healthcare Support workers has remained relatively steady throughout the recession although the number of unemployed seeking work in this field has remained relatively high. In December, the last month for which unemployment data are available, there were 2.3 unemployed for every advertised vacancy in healthcare support.

Healthcare is a broad field, and the relative tightness of the labor market varies substantially from the higher-paying practitioner and technical jobs to the lower-paying support occupations. In December, advertised vacancies for healthcare practitioners or technical occupations outnumbered the unemployed looking for work in this field by over 3 to 1, and the average wage in these occupations is $32.64/hour. In sharp contrast, the average wage for healthcare support occupations is $12.66/hour and there were over 2 unemployed looking for work in the field for every advertised vacancy.

Supply/Demand rates indicated that, among the occupations with the largest number of online advertised vacancies, there is a significant difference in the number of unemployed seeking positions in these occupations. Among the top ten occupations advertised online, there were more vacancies than unemployed people seeking positions for Healthcare Practitioners (0.3) and Computer and Mathematical Science (0.4). On the other hand, in Sales and Related Occupations, there were over three people seeking jobs in this field for every online advertised vacancy (3.4) and there were almost five unemployed looking for work in Office and Administrative Support positions for every advertised opening (4.7).

Metro Area Highlights

  • Washington, D.C., Salt Lake City, and Baltimore have the lowest Supply/Demand rates
  • Online advertised vacancies in 51 of the 52 major metropolitan areas rose since last year (Milwaukee remained below last year's levels)

In January, 51 of the 52 metropolitan areas for which data are reported separately posted over-the-year increases in the number of online advertised vacancies. Among the three metro areas with the largest numbers of advertised vacancies, the New York metro area was about 42 percent above its January 2009 level, the Washington, D.C. metro area was about 20 percent above its January 2009 level, and the Los Angeles metro area was about 19 percent above last year's level.

The number of unemployed exceeded the number of advertised vacancies in all of the 52 metro areas for which information is reported separately. Washington, D.C., Salt Lake City, and Baltimore were the locations with the most favorable supply/demand rates, where the number of unemployed looking for work was only slightly larger than the number of advertised vacancies. On the other hand, metro areas in which the respective number of unemployed is substantially above the number of online advertised vacancies include Riverside, Calif., where there are nearly 11 unemployed people for every advertised vacancy (10.6), Detroit (9.6), Miami (5.9), Sacramento (5.9), Tampa (5.0), Los Angeles (5.0) and Memphis (5.0). Supply/Demand rate data are for November 2009, the latest month for which unemployment data for local areas are available.