Online Job Ads Increase with Healthcare Sector Leading the Way

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media , August 31, 2009

In what appears to be another signal that the recession may have bottomed out, a new report shows that online job listings are on the increase in many employment sectors, with healthcare practitioners and technicians leading the way.

The Conference Board's Help Wanted Online Data Series report, which tracks more than 1,000 online job boards across the United States, found that advertised vacancies for healthcare practitioners and technical occupations grew by 52,700 listings in August, for a total of 574,400. In August 2008, there were 584,600 such job vacancy listings.

"Advertised vacancies in this occupational category have been declining, and the August increase is the first significant monthly rise we have seen in over a year," says Gad Levanon, a senior economist at The Conference Board and a co-author of the report. "In recent months, we've seen an upward trend beginning to emerge and this is usually a leading indicator of employment. Usually, a few months after we see increases in job ads, we see an increase in employment itself."

Bureau of Labor Statistics show that the healthcare sector is one of the few areas in the economy that has seen monthly job growth throughout the recession, although that growth has slowed considerably in 2009.

In July, for every unemployed person looking for work in a healthcare practitioner or technical occupation, there were 2.5 advertised vacancies and the average wage in these occupations is $32.64/hour.

Because healthcare is a broad field, the report noted that the relative tightness of the labor market varies substantially from the higher-paying practitioner and technical jobs to the lower-paying support occupations. Individual occupations showing increases included physical and occupational therapists, physical and occupational therapists' assistants, speech language pathologists, home healthcare aides, and registered and practical nurses.

However, in some healthcare support occupations, such as dental assistants and pharmacy aides, where the average wage is $12.66, there were more than two unemployed people for every advertised vacancy, the report stated.

For all industries, online job demand grew by 169,000 advertised vacancies in August, or 5%. Since April, online job demand is up by 300,000, with many of the largest states showing stable trends following two years of losses that began in May 2007. With the August data, there are now three states—New York, Maryland, and Virginia—where the job demand trends have turned positive. The August increase included strong gains in California (26,700), Texas (21,900), Florida (15,700), and New York (11,100).

The Conference Board's recently released Consumer Confidence Index also rose in August, largely reflecting consumers' feelings that jobs were becoming easier to find. "While all of this is good news, the gap between the number of unemployed and the number of advertised vacancies still remains at about 11 million, with more than four unemployed people for every online advertised job vacancy," Levanon says.

John Commins is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media.

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