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Study: Employment Outlook Dims

A Conference Board study shows a plunge in job vacancies advertised online, a sign that January's unemployment numbers will be disheartening

Online job sites (MWW) and tried to promote business for their online career sites with ads during this year's Super Bowl. But they may be swimming against the tide. According to a Conference Board study of online job demand released on Feb. 2, advertised job vacancies plunged in January, an indicator that unemployment is going to continue to rise.

According to the study, advertised vacancies dropped 506,000, to 3,355,000, in January, bringing the December and January decline to more than 1 million, or 23%.

The report doesn't bode well for the unemployment numbers for January that are to be released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Feb. 6. The U.S. unemployment rate hit 7.2%, a 16-year high, in December, and some experts are predicting double-digit rates this year. The median forecast of economists surveyed by Action Economics calls for a 525,000 decline in nonfarm payrolls in January, compared with 524,000 in December. The unemployment rate is forecast to rise to 7.5%.

Jobs: Supply and Demand Imbalance

The Conference Board said that advertised vacancies dropped in all 50 states, and only two states—North Dakota and Wyoming—continue to have fewer unemployed persons than advertised vacancies. The worst supply and demand imbalance was in Michigan, where there were more than six unemployed for every advertised vacancy. Other states with more than four people for every vacancy include Mississippi (5.04), Indiana (4.78), Kentucky (4.72), North Carolina (4.31), Georgia (4.24), Florida (4.20), South Carolina (4.05), and California (4.03).

"The very sharp declines in advertised vacancies throughout the nation in the last two months are clearly making it increasingly hard for those who are unemployed to find new positions," Gad Levanon, senior economist at the Conference Board, said in a news release. "An expected increase in the unemployment numbers coming out at the end of this week, combined with this sharp January drop in labor demand, will widen the labor supply/demand gap."

The Conference Board said job weakness is across the board—from relatively high-paying management jobs to lower-paying work, including transportation and food-service jobs. Health-care support jobs, which have remained strong during the recession, showed just a modest decline in advertised positions in January.

The Conference Board study measures the number of new and reposted jobs on more than 1,200 job Web sites.

Mintz is news editor for in New York.

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