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Labor Market Spotlight: Job Postings in the Time of Coronavirus

It can be hard to digest the current state of the world and economy because things have changed so quickly. Just a little more than a month ago, life and work still felt normal — complete with commutes, dinners out and birthday parties. 

Compared with our old sense of normalcy, the current times can feel scary. Unemployment claims have reached historic heights. And with offices closed, many people are working from home for the first time, in addition to helping teach children and caring for other family members. 

But what we’ve learned from the past, is that you can’t always learn from the past. As Jed Kolko, Chief Economist at Indeed, has pointed out, each time the U.S. economy faces a challenge is different. For example, the 2009 global economic recession was rooted in the housing and finance sectors. 

This time, there were no larger, underlying problems with the economy that caused the current contraction — for business and consumer spending to decrease almost overnight, and for so many people to lose their jobs. And none of the economic downturns in the last 50 years have been related to health, so the conditions of a global pandemic are truly unique — the priority being the need to stop the spread of disease by limiting mobility and business functions.

In these turbulent times, Indeed Chief Economist Jed Kolko is spending a lot of time looking at Indeed data to make sense of what is going on. “The labor market is changing so fast that official government data show an outdated picture. But on our site we can see real-time measures of the labor market,” Jed says.

The first major metric Jed is tracking is job postings on Indeed. Job postings typically increase early in the year, but this year, they turned downward beginning in mid-March. As of April 24, the trend in job postings is 36.7% lower in 2020 than in 2019. That means that job postings are over one-third below where they would have been if this year’s trend looked like last year’s. Some sectors have shut down operations almost entirely, while others have slowed or paused hiring. 

When we look at new job postings on Indeed — those that have been on the site for a week or less — we see an even more exaggerated effect. New postings have dropped significantly since the coronavirus crisis hit the United States. This is unsurprising given the number of businesses that abruptly closed their doors in mid-March, as businesses that have closed temporarily or permanently don’t have new jobs to post. Overall, the trend in new job postings is down 45.5% from April 2019.

Digging into detailed information about different industries shows us that some sectors have been more affected than others. The hospitality and tourism industry has been hardest hit as mobility and leisure activities have been greatly reduced during shelter-in-place orders — the trend in job postings for this industry is 63.4% lower than a year ago. In fact, the local markets most dependent on hospitality and tourism — like Miami and Honolulu — have seen the biggest declines in job postings. Other industries directly related to fighting COVID-19 — like pharmacy and nursing — have fared better, though job posting trends are still lower than last year.

Expanding our view globally, we see that New Zealand is the country that has seen the biggest slowdown in job postings, with postings 67% lower than where they would have been had they followed last year’s trend. This may be because the country went into total lockdown early, on March 21, with firm restrictions in place to protect their population from the spread of the coronavirus.

Countries with fewer jobs that can be done from home have mostly seen arger declines in job postings since the coronavirus crisis began. According to research done by Indeed economists, this would explain the presence of Australia, the U.K. and Canada near the top of this list.

This is an unprecedented time for the labor market and things are changing rapidly. Because of that, this snapshot may look different even a short time in the future. As businesses quickly adjust their hiring needs, the Indeed Hiring Lab will continue to publish regular updates on job postings and other major trends on Indeed to keep you informed.

Methodology:
To measure the trends in job postings, we calculated the 7-day moving average of the number of U.S. job postings on Indeed. We index each day’s 7-day moving average to the start of that year (Feb 1, 2020 = 100 for 2020 data, and so on), or another date if specified on the chart.
We report how the trend in job postings this year differs from last year, in order to focus on the recent changes in labor market conditions due to COVID-19. For example: if job postings for a country increased 30% from February 1, 2019, to April 24, 2019, but only 20% from February 1, 2020, to April 24, 2020, then the index would have risen from 100 to 130 in 2019 and 100 to 120 in 2020. The year-to-date trend in job postings would therefore be down 7.7% on April 24 (120 is 7.7% below 130) in 2020 relative to 2019. 
For new postings, we calculate a similar metric but the underlying measure is the number of postings that have been on Indeed for seven days or less.
In the tables for this post, the caption “change in trend in postings” represents the percent change in job growth rate from February 1 compared to the same date the year prior. Information based on publicly available information on the Indeed US website (and other countries named in the post), limited to the United States, is not a projection of future events, and includes both paid and unpaid job solicitations.

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