As the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps through the nation, tracking its impact on the labor market in real-time is necessary, yet challenging, as data to capture the rapid changes occurring on a daily basis is rarely available.
Weekly initial unemployment insurance claims data is currently the best real-time economic indicator available to capture the supply side of the labor market – it gives some indication of how many people are newly unemployed every week. Job postings are another important indicator providing valuable insight into the demand side of the job market and how employers are responding to the crisis.
Job postings drop as unemployment claims soar
The second half of March saw an unprecedented surge in new Idaho unemployment claims. While the number of new claims declined throughout most of April, they remained significantly greater than the average weekly claims recorded in first 12 weeks of the year. In the week ending April 25, initial claims dropped to 8,827.
Weekly job posting trends are less clear as these tend to fluctuate wildly, however, the number of postings showed a marked downward trend around the same time as the surge in unemployment claims. The data suggests that weekly posting fell to its lowest point on April 11 – four weeks after March 15. As of May 2, weekly job postings across the state were 46 percent lower than their highpoint in March and 34 percent less than the average number of postings at the beginning of the year. Month-over-month, job postings saw a 40 percent decline from March to April.
Non-essential businesses show the steepest decline in job new postings
All industry sectors, except mining, showed a decline in the number of postings from March to April. The arts, entertainment and recreation industry experienced the steepest decline in new postings, dropping 63 percent. Retail saw an overall decline in job postings of 42 percent. However, essential retail such as grocery stores and pharmacies were significantly less affected than retail that was deemed non-essential. Generally, essential businesses saw a lower decline in postings than non-essential businesses. Week-to-week, only essential services saw some growth in postings during the height of the shutdown. The health care industry saw a small spike in postings following March 14, reflective of an immediate need for their critical services in response to the pandemic.
Despite the pandemic, the demand for some occupations continued to rise. New posting for respiratory therapists, for instance, continued on its upward trajectory during the months of March and April. Others, like the medical equipment repairers and personal finance advisors, have seen unprecedented surges in recent months.
Esther.Eke@labor.idaho.gov, regional economist
Idaho Department of Labor
(208) 236-6710 ext. 4331