Online advertised vacancies were unchanged in May at 4,149,000, following a 223,000 gain in April, according to The Conference Board Help Wanted OnLine (HWOL) Data Series released on June 2. Online job demand has been on an upward trend since October '09 and averaged 118,000 per month. The gap between the number of unemployed and advertised vacancies (supply/demand rate) stood at 3.68 unemployed for every advertised vacancy in April (the last available unemployment data) compared to 4.76 in October 2009.

"After the large 223,000 April increase in online advertised vacancies that kicked off the spring hiring season, employers essentially held steady in May," said June Shelp, vice president at The Conference Board. "As the economy comes out of the recession, online demand has risen in a wide variety of occupations. Occupations commonly associated with office work (administrative, legal and computer jobs) as well as manufacturing and construction vacancies are improving but remain below their pre-recession levels, while online demand for workers in sales, education and training, entertainment, food preparation and service, healthcare support and personal care are all at or above their pre-recession 2007 levels."

Regional and State Highlights

  • May increases bring labor demand in Massachusetts and New Jersey to the highest levels since fall 2008

Labor demand in The South was down 21,800 in May, reflecting declines in some states that more than offset gains in other states. States that posted gains included Virginia, which rose 10,300 to 167,800, the highest level since the HWOL data series begin in May 2005. Maryland rose 8,600 in May to 127,600, its highest level since November 2008. Among the most populous States with declines in May, Florida was down 19,300, North Carolina was down 9,900, and Texas and Georgia dipped by 5,000 and 6,400, respectively. Among the less populous states in the South, in May Louisiana decreased by 5,000, Kentucky decreased by 3,600, and advertised vacancies in Oklahoma decreased by 2,300.

The Midwest was down 18,000 in May, reflecting dips in several states that partially offset last month's gains. Ohio was down 3,800 after rising 8,700 in April, while Wisconsin dipped 2,600 after an April increase of 10,500 and Missouri declined 1,500 after a 3,400 April gain. In contrast, Minnesota rose 1,900 in May to 84,000, its highest level since November 2008. Other large Midwestern States with dips in May included Illinois (-4,200) and Michigan (-4,400). Among the States with smaller populations, Indiana decreased 2,900 while North Dakota was down 1,200.

The West dropped 7,600 in May. California, which rose 9,800 in April was up 6,800 in May. Washington State dropped 5,000 after an 11,300 gain, the largest Western gain, in April. Arizona decreased by 4,700 after a 2,100 April gain. Colorado was flat in May after a small April rise of 400. Among the smaller States, Oregon was down 5,000, New Mexico dropped 1,800, Hawaii fell 1,500, Alaska dropped 900, and Nevada dipped 400.

In the Northeast region, online advertised vacancies were up 5,500 in May. Among the largest States in the region, New York, after a very large increase of 23,600 in April, was unchanged. Massachusetts rose 5,000, and New Jersey was up 4,600. The Massachusetts gain followed a larger 6,900 April rise, and the New Jersey gain followed a much larger 17,600 gain. Pennsylvania gained 3,900 after a larger gain of 4,300 in April and reached its highest level since November 2008. Among the smaller States, May job demand in New Hampshire was down by 3,900, Rhode Island dropped 2,100, Vermont fell 2,000, and Maine dropped 1,300 while Connecticut was up 800.

The Supply/Demand rate for the U.S. in April (the latest month for which unemployment numbers are available) was at 3.68, indicating that there just under 4 unemployed workers for every online advertised vacancy. States with some of the lowest rates include North Dakota (1.17), Nebraska (1.41), South Dakota (1.45), and Alaska (1.51) where the Supply/Demand rates reflected the fact that there was just over one unemployed for every online advertised vacancy. Among the States, the highest Supply/Demand rates are in Michigan (7.17) and Mississippi (7.10), where there are over 7 unemployed people for every advertised vacancy. Although still among the highest in the Nation, Michigan's S/D rate has improved significantly from the 10.3 in July 2009 when there were just over 10 unemployed for every online advertised vacancy. Other states where there are over 5 unemployed for every advertised vacancy are Indiana (5.15) and Kentucky (5.11).

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

  • Online demand for Healthcare support workers remained above pre-recession levels
  • Occupations where online demand is at or near all time highs also includes workers in sales, personal care, food preparation and service, education, and arts and entertainment

As the U.S. economy begins pulling out of the recession, labor demand is up in all of the larger occupation groups. However, online demand in construction, manufacturing production, and traditional "office" occupations like management, legal, business and finance, computer & mathematical and general office & administrative workers are lagging behind pre-recession levels. In contrast, online advertised vacancies for workers in a range of service occupations like healthcare support, food preparation and service, sales, education, and community and social services are running at or near levels in pre-recession 2007.

Among the top 10 occupation groups with the largest numbers of online advertised vacancies, Healthcare Practitioners and Technical occupations were down 82,800 to 540,400 in May after a slight gain, 3,300, in April. The May drop was largely due to decreases in demand for physical and occupational therapists, registered nurses, and speech pathologists. Still remaining relatively strong throughout the recession, labor demand for Healthcare Support occupations fell 16,600 in May to 111,800 after a modest gain, 2,400, in April. May decreases in this field reflect decreases in demand for workers in occupations like physical and occupational therapist assistants, nursing aids, and medical assistants.

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 April, 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 nearly 3 to 1, and the average wage in these occupations is $33.51 per hour. In sharp contrast, the average wage for healthcare support occupations is $12.84 per hour and there were more than two unemployed looking for work in the field for every advertised vacancy.

Computer and Mathematical Science occupations experienced the largest May gain, up 18,100 to 567,600, their highest level since October 2008, after a much larger April rise, 32,500. The May gain reflects in part continued increases in demand for computer systems analysts and computer software engineers (applications).

Architecture and Engineering occupations experienced a May gain of 12,700 to 159,500, their highest level since December 2008, following an equivalent April gain. The May increase reflects postings for a wide variety of occupations including industrial engineers, mechanical engineers, and electronic engineers (non-computer).

Sales and Related occupations rose 8,100 in May to 497,500. In the first five months of 2010 online advertised vacancies for sales workers have averaged close to 500,000 per month. "This is a level that is almost 50,000/month higher than monthly demand in calendar 2007," Shelp said. The official beginning of the recession was December 2007.

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 (0.3) 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) and there were over four unemployed looking for work in Office and Administrative Support positions for every advertised opening (4.2).

Metro Area Highlights

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

In May, 51 of the 52 metropolitan areas for which data are reported separately posted over-the-year increases in the number of online advertised vacancies; New Orleans posted a slight decrease. Among the three metro areas with the largest numbers of advertised vacancies, the New York metro area was 36 percent above its May 2009 level, the Washington, D.C. metro area was 33 percent above its May 2009 level, and the Los Angeles metro area was 20 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., Oklahoma 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 (10.7), Detroit (8.8), Sacramento (6.1) and Miami (5.7). Supply/Demand rate data are for March 2010, the latest month for which unemployment data for local areas are available.