Online advertised vacancies slipped 66,900 to 3,957,000 in February, according to The Conference Board Help Wanted OnLine (HWOL) Data Series released on March 1. The February dip follows a large increase of almost 750,000 in the previous three-month period. Recent declines in the number of unemployed (labor supply) coupled with the rise in the number of advertised vacancies (labor demand) has narrowed the gap between labor supply and labor demand by 1,500,000, and in January, the latest month of unemployment numbers, there were 10.8 million or 3.69 unemployed for every online advertised vacancy.
"Although labor demand dipped slightly, the large gains in the last few months have provided a positive sign of a turnaround in employer labor demand," said June Shelp, Vice President at The Conference Board. "Currently, labor demand, as measured by online job postings, is close to the levels in November 2008, just prior to the huge losses from the financial crisis. The numbers indicate that the economy is recovering from the recession and companies are filling vacant positions, but it is still unclear if employers are willing to significantly expand their workforce."
Regional and State Highlights
The Midwest, the only region to post gains in February, was up 15,300, reflecting gains in three of the six largest states in the region. Michigan rose 3,800, Ohio was up 3,200, and Minnesota gained 2,900. Illinois was unchanged while Missouri dropped 1,200, and Wisconsin dropped a modest 700. Among the smaller states in the region, Indiana rose 2,100 and North Dakota was up 1,600.
The Northeast region dropped 29,900 in February on a seasonally adjusted basis. Pennsylvania was down 9,400, New Jersey declined by 8,800, Massachusetts lost 3,400, and New York dipped 1,500. Among the states with smaller populations, in February job demand in Connecticut decreased by 4,400, New Hampshire was down by 600, Rhode Island and Vermont fell by a modest 100, and Maine remained unchanged.
In the West, February online advertised vacancies dropped 28,000 with a loss of 19,300 in California. Colorado dropped 6,200, and Arizona dropped 6,100. Washington rose 2,400. Among the states with smaller populations, Nevada dropped 2,400, New Mexico fell 1,200, and Alaska dropped by 800, while Hawaii was up 1,300.
In the South, online advertised vacancies fell by 19,500, reflecting the combination of declines and gains in some of the larger states. Texas, which in January had experienced its largest gain since November 2005, dipped 10,800. Florida and Maryland had modest drops of 2,200 and 800, respectively. Georgia gained 5,100, Virginia gained 2,800, and North Carolina gained 500. Among the less populous states in the South, in February, Oklahoma decreased by 5,500, Louisiana decreased by 1,600, and advertised vacancies in Kentucky dipped by 700.
The Supply/Demand rate for the U.S. in January (the latest month for which unemployment numbers are available) was at 3.69, down from 4.19 in December and indicating that there are now 3.69 unemployed workers for every online advertised vacancy.
Due to Bureau of Labor Statistics benchmark revisions, January unemployment data for States will not be available until March 10, 2010. For December 2009, the highest Supply/Demand rate was in Michigan (9.07), where there are over 9 unemployed people for every advertised vacancy. Based on December data, 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 December rates where there are less than 2 unemployed for each online advertised vacancy 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.
Among the top 10 occupation groups with the largest number of online advertised vacancies, Management occupations rose 61,100 to 488,000 in February. Job demand in this occupational group lay flat for all of 2009 but has picked up in January and February. The increase reflects postings for a wide variety of occupations including sales managers, computer and information systems managers, and marketing managers.
Healthcare Practitioners and Technical occupations experienced the largest February decline, down 30,300 to 537,000. The decline reflects drops in demand for occupational and physical therapists and general internists. Labor demand for Healthcare Support occupations, which has remained relatively steady throughout the recession, dipped 8,600 to 110,700 in February. Contributing to this month's decline were fewer advertised vacancies for physical and occupational therapist assistants, mirroring the declines in the demand for practitioners in these areas.
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 January, the latest month for which unemployment data is available, 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.
Advertised vacancies in Office and Administrative Support occupations were down 25,600 in February to 424,600. The decline largely reflected fewer advertised vacancies for stock clerks and order fillers and tellers. The number of unemployed exceeds the number of advertised vacancies, and in January there were nearly 4 unemployed (3.78) for every online advertised vacancy in this field.
Business and Financial Operations professions dropped 24,700 in February to 209,500. Largely responsible for the decrease was fewer advertised openings for management analysts and tax preparers. The number of unemployed exceeds the number of advertised vacancies, and in January there were almost 2 unemployed (1.60) for every online advertised vacancy in this field.
Sales and Related professions dropped 15,200 in February to 482,800. Largely responsible for the decrease were fewer advertised vacancies for first-line supervisors/managers of non-retail sales workers, demonstrators and product promoters, and financial services sales agents. The number of unemployed in this field exceeds the number of advertised vacancies, and in January there were over 3 unemployed (3.26) for every online advertised vacancy. Two categories that have posted increases for the last five months are Food Preparation and Serving Related occupations and Building and Grounds Cleaning and Maintenance occupations, which rose by 2,400 and 1,400 respectively in February. In the last five months, advertised vacancies in food preparation and service occupations have risen by 23,400, while demand for building and grounds workers rose by 8,700 over the same period.
Supply/Demand rates among the occupations with the largest number of online advertised vacancies indicated that 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 (3.3); there were almost four unemployed looking for work in Office and Administrative Support positions for every advertised opening (3.8); and there are over eleven unemployed seeing work in Food Preparation and Serving occupations for every online advertised opening (11.1).
Metro Area Highlights
In February, all 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 38 percent above its February 2009 level, the Washington, D.C. metro area was about 24 percent above its February 2009 level, and the Los Angeles metro area was about 18 percent above last year's level.
Based on the latest unemployment data for December, 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., Baltimore, and Salt Lake City 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 over 12 unemployed people for every advertised vacancy (12.1), Detroit (10.3), Miami (6.5), Sacramento (6.3), Los Angeles (5.7), Chicago (5.6), and Tampa (5.5). Supply/Demand rate data are for December 2009, the latest month for which unemployment data for local areas are available.