Online advertised vacancies slipped 29,600 to 3,927,000 in March, according to The Conference Board Help Wanted OnLine (HWOL) Data Series released on March 31. Following three months of large increases, totaling about 750,000 advertised vacancies, February and March have shown a small combined decline of 97,000. In February, the latest month of unemployment numbers, there were 10.9 million, or 3.76 unemployed for every online advertised vacancy.

"The upturn in labor demand over the last five months (+647,000) is a clear signal that the labor market is beginning to recover from the recession," said June Shelp, vice president at The Conference Board. "However, the recent February and March data suggests that employers may still be somewhat cautious about significantly expanding their workforce as we are preparing to enter the Spring hiring season."

REGIONAL AND STATE HIGHLIGHTS

  • Florida and Illinois are among the few States to post larger gains in March
  • Labor demand in California holds steady in March

Labor demand in the South was practically unchanged in March, rising a modest 4,900. Florida posted the largest gain in the region, up 21,900 to 232,200 in March. Among the largest States in the region, Maryland gained a modest 2,800. Partially offsetting these gains were dips in Texas, down 13,700, North Carolina and Virginia, both down 4,100, and Georgia, down 1,800. Among the less populous states in the South, in March, Oklahoma decreased by 2,800, Louisiana increased by 1,700, and advertised vacancies in Kentucky increased by 700.

The Midwest dipped 21,800, reflecting, in part, drops in 4 of the 6 largest states in the region that more than offset the gains in States like Illinois (+10,500) and Michigan (+1,100). Ohio was down 10,700 after a February rise of 3,200, and Minnesota dropped 5,200 after a February gain of 2,900. Wisconsin dipped 3,000. Among the smaller states in the region, North Dakota dropped 1,700 while Indiana was up 1,300.

The Northeast region was down 15,600 in March. New York was down 21,600, and New Jersey dropped 3,700. Partially offsetting these declines were increases in the demand for labor in two of the larger States as well as a number of States with smaller populations. Pennsylvania rose 2,800, and Massachusetts gained 1,800. Among the smaller States, March job demand in Connecticut increased by 4,000, Vermont rose 600, New Hampshire was up by 400, and Maine rose 100. Rhode Island dipped 1,100.

In the West, March online advertised vacancies were practically unchanged, posting a modest drop of 3,500. In the West, several of the large states posted small gains, including California, up 8,200, Arizona, up 3,900, and Colorado, up 1,200. Washington State posted a loss of 4,800, and Alaska and Oregon were down 2,500 and 1,600 respectively. In many of the States in the region with smaller populations, labor demand was practically unchanged in March: Nevada dropped 200 while New Mexico rose 300 and Hawaii inched up 100.

The Supply/Demand rate for the U.S. in February (the latest month for which unemployment numbers are available) was at 3.76, indicating that there are not quite four unemployed workers for every online advertised vacancy. Among the States, the highest Supply/Demand rate is in Mississippi (7.74), where there are almost eight unemployed people for every advertised vacancy. Mississippi has surpassed Michigan, which has long held this position and now stands at 7.58 after having reached its peak of 10.83 in July 2009. Other states where there are over five unemployed for every advertised vacancy are Kentucky (6.07), South Carolina (5.39), Florida (5.35), Indiana (5.22), Tennessee (5.15), California (5.14), and Illinois (5.12). States with some of the lowest rates include North Dakota (1.39), Nebraska (1.40), and Alaska (1.48).

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

  • Demand for Healthcare Practitioners and Technical positions up in March
  • Demand for Office and Administrative Support occupations down, while vacancies in Management positions increases

Among the top 10 occupation groups with the largest numbers of online advertised vacancies, Healthcare Practitioners and Technical occupations experienced the largest March gain, up 88,100 to 627,300. The gain reflects increases in demand for physical and occupational therapists, registered nurses, and speech pathologists. Labor demand for Healthcare Support occupations rose 13,800 to 125,400. Contributing to this month's increase were more advertised vacancies for physical and occupational therapist assistants, mirroring the increases 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 February, the latest month for which unemployment data are available, advertised vacancies for healthcare practitioners or technical occupations outnumbered the unemployed looking for work in this field by almost 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 per hour and there were almost three unemployed looking for work in the field for every advertised vacancy.

Management occupations rose 21,600 to 509,600 in March. Job demand in this occupational group lay flat for all of 2009, but has picked up in the first quarter of 2010. The increase reflects postings for a wide variety of occupations including computer and information systems managers, storage and distribution managers, and sales managers.

Advertised vacancies in Office and Administrative Support occupations were down 47,600 in March to 376,100. The decline largely reflected fewer advertised vacancies for executive secretaries and administrative assistants, general office clerks, and customer service representatives. The number of unemployed exceeds the number of advertised vacancies, and in February there were nearly four unemployed (3.97) for every online advertised vacancy in this field.

Sales and Related professions dropped 10,500 in March to 467,500. Largely responsible for the decrease were first-line supervisors/managers of retail sales workers, all other services sales representatives, and financial services sales agents. The number of unemployed exceeds the number of advertised vacancies, and in February there were over three unemployed (3.42) for every online advertised vacancy in this field.

Business and Financial Operations professions dropped 9,600 in March to 200,300. In March, there were fewer advertised openings for management analysts and accountants. The number of unemployed exceeds the number of advertised vacancies, and in February there were almost 2 unemployed (1.74) for every online advertised vacancy in this field.

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 10 occupations advertised online, there were more vacancies than unemployed people seeking positions for Healthcare Practitioners (0.4), 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 four unemployed looking for work in Office and Administrative Support positions for every advertised opening (4.0).

METRO AREA HIGHLIGHTS

  • Washington, D.C., Salt Lake City, and Baltimore have the lowest Supply/Demand rates
  • Online advertised vacancies in all major metropolitan areas but Salt Lake City are above last year's levels

In March, 51 of the 52 metropolitan areas for which data are reported separately posted over-the-year increases in the number of online advertised vacancies; Salt Lake City declined very slightly. Among the three metro areas with the largest numbers of advertised vacancies, the New York metro area was 37 percent above its March 2009 level, the Washington, D.C. metro area was 27 percent above its March 2009 level, and the Los Angeles metro area was 24 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 12 unemployed people for every advertised vacancy (11.7), Detroit (10.5), Sacramento (6.5) and Miami (6.3). Supply/Demand rate data are for January 2010, the latest month for which unemployment data for local areas are available.