The number of new online job ads declined to just more than 2 million in September, according to The Conference Board’s Help-Wanted Online Data Series, down 4.4 percent from August, with fewer jobs being offered in all nine major regions of the country.

There were 1.36 online job ads per 100 persons in the U.S. labor force in September compared with 1.43 per 100 persons in August.

“The September data indicate a general weakening in the job picture nationwide — a trend we were seeing before the recent hurricanes. That data are consistent with The Conference Board’s latest CEO Confidence Survey, which is also down,” said Ken Goldstein, labor economist at The Conference Board.

The confidence level of CEOs in the third quarter of 2005 sagged to its lowest level in four years. Also, September data from The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Survey revealed that consumers were also feeling less optimistic about the job market, with more consumers saying that jobs are “hard to get” and fewer claiming that jobs are “plentiful.”

“High oil prices throughout the summer and the recent hurricanes have all contributed to a faster slowdown of the economy,” Goldstein said.

The September data is the sum of the number of new first-time online job ads posted each day of the month and reflects the initial impacts of the recent hurricanes Katrina and Rita, which hit the Gulf Coast on August 29 and September 24, respectively.

The largest September decline in online jobs at 6.4 percent was in the South Atlantic region, which includes the East Coast states from Florida north to Delaware and Maryland. West South Central – which includes Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, and Oklahoma — and the Mountain region – which includes Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana — declined slightly less, both down 5.6 percent from August while the New England region was down 5.3 percent over the same period. The smallest monthly dip at 2.8 percent was in the East North Central region, which includes Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.

Many employers turned to the Internet to lure workers displaced by the hurricanes. In the week immediately after Hurricane Katrina, new online job postings in New Orleans rose some 67 percent, jumping from an average of 1,200 new postings per week to 2,000 in the week of September 4th to 10th. The bulk of the new job listings (two out of three) in New Orleans were for positions in locations outside of the devastated area –many as far away as the Pacific Northwest, New England and even Alaska and Hawaii.

Both the large national job boards and the smaller niche boards that focus on local area markets and specific occupations promise a way to streamline searching for a job, even in a far away city.

“The story from New Orleans is that employers, especially those looking to fill positions in tight labor market categories like healthcare, were able to use the Internet to tap into a pool of workers with a potentially high willingness to relocate,” adds Goldstein.

Adjusting job ads for the size of the local labor force, San Francisco with 2.93 job ads per 100 persons in the labor force continues to lead the way among the 52 metropolitan areas for which data is published, followed closely by Boston (2.87), San Diego (2.84) and Salt Lake (2.78). The number of job ads per 100 participants in the labor force was lowest in East South Central and West South Central regions with less than one job ad per 100 persons, 0.96 and 0.94, respectively.

The Conference Board Help-Wanted OnLine Data Series measures the number of new, first-time online job ads posted on more than 1,200 major Internet job boards and smaller job boardss that serve niche markets an smaller geographic areas

The Conference Board is as nonprofit research and business group.

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