Online computer help wanted ads show first annual decline

There have been 3,733,200 job openings nationally advertised online in March, a 0.6 percent decline from the March 2007 level, according to The Conference Board.

The decline is the first over-the-year decline and reflects a slowing in annual growth in 42 states, of which 14 states were negative, the organization says.

In March, there were 2.4 advertised vacancies posted online for every 100 persons in the labor force, down from a high of 2.9 in April 2007.

Online advertised vacancies in California, the state with the largest labor force in the nation, totaled 512,000 in March. The ad volume in California dropped 118,000 or 19 percent below the March 2007 level.

“The softening in advertised vacancies evident over the last few months spread to more states in March and, for the first time, annual growth turned negative for the nation as a whole,” says Gad Levanon, economist at The Conference Board. “It would not be surprising to see a third straight month of job losses when employment data are released later this week as well as continued weakness in the months ahead.

Mr. Levanon says the weak demand for labor and a soft employment market help explain the significant decline in the Consumer Confidence Index released last week, which dropped to 64.5, its lowest level since 2003.

In March, 2,542,500 of the 3,733,200 unduplicated online advertised vacancies were new ads that did not appear in February, while the rest were reposted ads from the previous month. In March, the number of total online advertised vacancies declined 5 percent and new ads dropped 8 percent from February, reflecting the fact that there were fewer days during the reference period, as well as the continued slowing in the labor market.

States where labor demand continues to be high include Alaska, Nevada and Delaware. Alaska posted 4.65 online advertised vacancies for every 100 persons in the state labor force, the highest rate in the nation. Alaska has held the number one position for seven months in a row. Nevada (4.38) and Delaware (4.26) were close behind in the number of advertised vacancies when adjusted for the size of the state labor force. Half of the top 10 states with the highest ads rate are west of the Mississippi and in addition to Alaska and Nevada include Arizona (4.17), Colorado (4.04) and Washington (3.73). The other half of the top ten are along the Eastern seaboard.

“Although one cannot infer that the occupation or geographic location of unemployed persons matches the occupation or geographic location of the vacancies, looking at the number of unemployed in relation to the number of advertised vacancies provides an indication of available job opportunities for the unemployed,” says Mr. Levanon.

Healthcare still leads occupations in highest demand.

“Many jobs in high demand are also, on average, among the highest paying occupations,” says Mr. Levanon. Healthcare practitioners (260,400) and management (228,900) are the two occupations with the most number of ads posted online, the report says.

According to the latest federal hourly wage data, wages average about $30 for healthcare practitioners and above $44 an hour for management.

Also in high demand are occupations in computer and mathematical (203,900), business and financial operations (197,400) and office and administrative support (194,400).

The Conference Board survey measures the number of new, first-time online jobs and jobs reposted from the previous month on more than 1,200 major Internet job boards and smaller job boards that serve niche markets and smaller geographic areas.