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Still Searching: Job Vacancies and STEM Skills

This report uses a unique database from the labor market information company Burning Glass and other sources to analyze the skill requirements and the advertisement duration time for millions of job openings. It reaches the following conclusions:

Job openings for STEM positions take longer to fill than openings in other fields.

The median duration of advertising for a STEM vacancy is more than twice as long as for a non-STEM vacancy. For STEM openings requiring a Ph.D. or other professional degree, advertisements last an average of 50 days, compared to 33 days for all non-STEM vacancies. Even sub-bachelor's STEM job openings take longer to fill than non-STEM jobs requiring a bachelor's degree. Health care and computer openings are advertised 23 and 15 days longer, on average, than openings for non-STEM occupations, like those in office and administrative support. Moreover, professional STEM vacancies take longer to fill now than before the recession, while vacancies for lower-skilled occupations remain much easier to fill. These indicators signal that STEM skills are in short supply in the labor market, relative to demand.

Specific high-value skills requested by employers and common to STEM occupations are particularly scarce relative to demand and yet particularly valuable to employers.

Computer skills are associated with the highest salaries and longest advertisement duration times among all major occupational groups. Employers advertised 255 distinct computer skills in at least 500 job openings for an average of 40 to 71 days on their websites.

The regional supply of workers in a given occupation affects the length of vacancy advertisements.

The typical job opening in an occupation for which the regional unemployment rate was below 3 percent was advertised for 16 days; most of these occupations are in STEM fields. By contrast, the typical job opening was advertised less than half that duration (seven days) for occupations with regional unemployment rates above 10 percent. These and other factors explain why Fresno, CA (68 days) and tech hubs like San Jose, CA (59 days), San Francisco (56 days), and Seattle (48 days) ranked among the metro areas with the longest average durations for professional STEM openings.

These job openings data provide new evidence that, post-recession, STEM skills, particularly those associated with high levels of educational attainment, are in high demand among employers. Meanwhile, job seekers possessing neither STEM knowledge nor higher education face extraordinary levels of competition for a scarce number of jobs. Governments at all levels, educators, training organizations, and civic leaders can utilize job vacancy data to better understand the opportunities available to workers and the specific skills required of them. Improving educational and training opportunities to acquire STEM knowledge should be part of any strategy to help unemployed or low-wage workers improve their earnings and employability.

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