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Online Labor Demand Dips 45,000 in May

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Press release from the issuing company

Online advertised vacancies dipped 45,700 in May to 4,714,800, according to The Conference Board Help Wanted OnLine (HWOL) Data Series released today. The Supply/Demand rate stands at 2.6 unemployed for every vacancy. In May the number of unemployed was 7.7 million above the number of advertised vacancies — compared to 10 million above in the fall of 2011.

“After rising 564,000 over the last five months, labor demand dipped in May. Despite this drop, strong employer demand has created growing opportunities for both job-changers and the unemployed and has also helped significantly lower the unemployment rate (Chart 1),” said June Shelp, Vice President at The Conference Board. In May over half of the 50 States are now posting advertised vacancies that are above their pre-recession highs.  The largest gains were in the Midwest with Michigan up 53 percent from its pre-recession high.  Other Midwestern States with increases above 40 percent include North Dakota (46%), Indiana (44%), and Ohio (41%).


  • Labor demand trends are positive for all 20 of the largest States in the U.S.


  • 28 States are above their pre-recession highs

“It is a good sign that in over half of the States employers are posting more help-wanted notices online than they did before the recession,” said Shelp. “The direction is a positive one and if labor demand continues to remain at high levels we should see continued drops in unemployment.”

Table A.1 includes each State in which current labor demand is above the pre-recession high.  While the recession officially began for the nation as whole in December 2007, labor demand contracted in some States before that date while other States did not experience the downturn until later. The States with positive gains above their pre-recession levels are geographically widespread, with Michigan at 53% showing the strongest gain.

Changes for the Month of May

Online labor demand in the Midwest rose by 7,800 in May. Among the region’s larger States, only Illinois was up in May — by 8,100, for a combined three-month gain of 13,400. Missouri dropped by 2,000; Minnesota, by 1,900; and Wisconsin, by 1,300. Demand was also down slightly in Michigan (1,200) and Ohio (300). Among the smaller Midwest States, South Dakota gained 1,100, North Dakota rose 400, and Indiana gained 300, while Kansas dipped 100.

Online labor demand in the Northeast rose by 6,300 in May. Massachusetts rose 2,200 for a six-month gain of 14,100.  New York rose 2,100 in May and has been up 20,400 over the past four months, with strong gains in Buffalo (up 15.6 percent), Rochester (up 13.5 percent), and the New York metro area (up 5.4 percent). Demand in Pennsylvania remained constant. New Jersey fell 700. Among the smaller States in the Northeast, demand dropped by 900 in both Rhode Island and Maine, by 800 in New Hampshire, and by 200 in Connecticut. (See Table 3.)

Online labor demand in the West fell by 30,400 in May. California, the largest State in population, declined 19,400, reflecting declines in advertised vacancies in all six of its largest metropolitan areas (See Table B and Table 5).  Labor demand in Washington fell 1,200. Arizona and Colorado both lost 900. Among the smaller States in the region, Utah rose 1,100, while Oregon lost 1,500 and Nevada fell 100 (Table 3).

Online labor demand in the South fell by 21,400 in May. The region saw losses in four out of its six largest States: Maryland fell by 8,900; North Carolina, by 4,200; Virginia, by 1,400; and Florida, by 200. Georgia gained 600 and Texas remained constant. Among the smaller States in the South, South Carolina gained 600 and Louisiana gained 300 while Tennessee lost 1,500 and Arkansas lost 200.

The Supply/Demand rate for the U.S. in April (the latest month for which the national unemployment number is available) stands at 2.63, indicating that there are some two and two-thirds unemployed workers for every online advertised vacancy. Nationally, there are 7.7 million more unemployed workers than advertised vacancies.  

The Supply/Demand rates for the States are also for April 2012, the latest month available for unemployment data. The number of advertised vacancies exceeded the number of unemployed only in North Dakota, where the Supply/Demand rate was 0.59.  States where the number of advertised vacancies and unemployed seeking jobs were about equal included Nebraska (1.09), South Dakota (1.11), Vermont (1.17), Alaska (1.23), Minnesota (1.40), and New Hampshire (1.42) (Table 4).  The State with the highest Supply/Demand rate is Mississippi (4.88), where there were almost five unemployed workers for every online advertised vacancy.  The next highest rates were in California (3.85) and Kentucky (3.82).

Note 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 (see Occupational Highlights section).


  • 9 of the 20 largest metro areas posted moderate gains in labor demand in May
  • 9 of the 20 largest metro areas have supply/demand rates below 2 — indicating that there are less than two unemployed workers for every advertised vacancy

In May, 9 of the 20 large MSAs posted increases in the number of online advertised vacancies.  Overall, 18 of the 52 metropolitan areas for which data are reported separately also showed increases in May (Table 5).

A number of the largest metro areas have shown strength since the official end of the recession in June 2009. Seven have posted increases of over 100 percent: Cleveland (up 148%), Minneapolis-St. Paul (up 127%), Detroit (up 127%), Columbus (up 109%), San Jose (up 104%), Nashville (up 104%), and Indianapolis (up 103%).

Seventeen MSAs had Supply/Demand rates in March 2012 (the latest available data for unemployment) lower than 2, indicating there are fewer than two unemployed for every advertised vacancy (See Table B). Washington, DC continues to have the most favorable Supply/Demand rate (1.07) with just over one advertised vacancy for every unemployed worker.  Minneapolis-St. Paul (1.31), Oklahoma City (1.38), Boston (1.40), and Salt Lake City (1.51) had the next lowest Supply/Demand rates.

Metro areas in which the number of unemployed is substantially above the number of online advertised vacancies include Riverside, CA, with nearly eight unemployed workers for every advertised vacancy (7.64); Sacramento (4.29); Miami (4.24); Las Vegas (4.23); and Los Angeles (3.87).  Supply/Demand rate data are for March 2012, the latest month for which unemployment data for local areas are available (Table B & Table 6).


  • Demand for Healthcare practitioners rose in May, and job opportunities continue to outnumber unemployed looking for jobs
  • Demand for Sales and Office workers up for the last several months

Occupational Changes for the Month of May

In May, 7 of the 22 major occupational groups in the Standard Occupational Classifications (SOC) posted gains   and 15 declined (Table C and Table 7).

Among the top 10 occupational groups with the largest numbers of online advertised vacancies, demand for Healthcare Practitioners and Technical occupations rose 26,700 in May to 587,100. Largely responsible for the increase were increased advertised vacancies for Registered Nurses, Pharmacy Technicians, and Radiologic Technologists. The number of advertised vacancies in this occupational category continues to be quite favorable with demand outnumbering job-seekers by 2 to 1 (0.51 S/D).

Labor demand for Sales and Related workers rose 9,600 to 619,200 (Table C) and was led by an increase in demand for First-Line Supervisors/Managers of Retail and Non-Retail Sales Workers and Retail Salespeople. The number of unemployed in this occupational category continues to outnumber the number of advertised vacancies by over 2 to 1 (S/D of 2.17) but is substantially below the 4+ unemployed for every available advertised vacancy in May 2009.

Office and Administrative Support occupations rose 5,600, to 503,600 with a gain of 76,800 since January.  Largely responsible for the May increase was higher demand for Customer Service Representatives, Sales-Floor Stock Clerks, and Tellers. The number of unemployed in these occupations remains above the number of advertised vacancies with 3.17 unemployed for every advertised vacancy.

Labor demand for Computer and Mathematical Science workers fell 18,000 to 608,800. The fall was due to decreases in demand for Computer Systems Analysts, Web Developers, and Network and Computer Systems Administrators. The number of advertised vacancies in this occupational category continues to outnumber job-seekers by almost 4 to 1 (0.26 S/D based on April data, the latest unemployment data available).

Recent Trends for Office & Administrative Support Workers and Sales Staff

“Labor demand has risen over the last few months for Office and Administrative Support and Sales Workers,” said Shelp, “and the increases have improved the supply/demand rates for both occupational groups.”  

Office and Administrative:

Labor demand for Office and Administrative workers has now risen for four consecutive months. “Labor demand for office workers fell sharply in the recession, and its slow rise after the recession has definitely picked up in the last few months,” said Shelp.  In May there were 504,000 advertised vacancies in the sector and while this is still below the April 2007 peak of 617,000, it is well above the low point of 315,000 advertised vacancies in November 2009. In the last four months demand for Office and Administrative workers has risen 76,800, or 18 percent (See Chart 3).

While job prospects are looking up for office support workers, there are still over 3 unemployed for every available advertised vacancy (See Table 7) in April (the latest unemployment data available). This has improved from 5.4 unemployed for every available ad in November 2009.

Sales and Related Occupations

Demand for Sales and Related workers has continued to rise and is up an average of 6,000 a month in the first five months of 2012. The May 2012 labor demand of 619,000 was 55,000 above the pre-recession monthly high of 564,000 in November 2007. The supply demand rate has fallen by half and now stands at 2.17 unemployed for every ad compared to the over 4 in May 2009.


The Conference Board Help Wanted OnLine Data Series (HWOL) measures the number of new, first-time online jobs and jobs reposted from the previous month about 1,000 major Internet job sites and smaller job sites that serve niche markets and smaller geographic areas.

Like The Conference Board’s long-running Help Wanted Advertising Index of print ads (which was published for over 55 years and discontinued in April 2008) the online series is not a direct measure of job vacancies. The level of ads in print and online can change for reasons not related to overall job demand.

The HWOL data series began in May 2005.  With the September, 2008 release, HWOL began providing seasonally adjusted data for the U.S., the nine Census regions and the 50 States.  Seasonally adjusted data for occupations were provided beginning with the May 2009 release and seasonally adjusted data for the 52 largest metropolitan areas began with the May 2012 release.    

People using this data are urged to review the information on the database and methodology available on The Conference Board website and contact us with questions and comments. Background information and technical notes and discussion of revisions to the series are available at:

The underlying online job listings data for this series is provided by Wanted Technologies Corporation.  Additional information on the Bureau of Labor Statistics data used in this release can be found on the BLS website,

Release Dates for 2012

Monday, July 2

Wednesday, August 1

Wednesday, September 5

Wednesday, October 3

Wednesday, October 31

Monday, December 3

Wednesday, January 2

* Wednesday release due to holidays or data availability.


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