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Recent changes in job openings and job postings

Comparing data from the BLS and Indeed.com

The FRED Blog has previously examined the history of job openings data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). In short, a job is considered open if a specific position exists and there is work available for it, the job can be started within 30 days, and there is active recruiting for the position. Job recruitment can take place online, and Indeed.com is one such internet-based job-posting platform whose data can be accessed in FRED.

The FRED graph above plots the recent changes in the monthly level of total nonfarm job openings reported by the BLS (the red line) and daily job postings reported by Indeed.com (the blue line) as a seven-day trailing average. Both data series are presented as an index with a value of 100 on February 1, 2020. That’s the start of the COVID-19-induced recession, the most recent large-scale shock to labor markets at the time of this writing.

The number of both job openings and job postings swiftly decreased during the economic contraction, but eventually bounced back to pre-recession levels about 12 months later. Both series generally move in sync, and changes in job postings tend to reflect overall changes in job openings. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the BLS samples around 21,000 business establishments to produce its data and that Indeed.com doesn’t report the actual number of job postings listed on its website.

While reports from Indeed.com are a useful sample of trends in job postings, data from job postings aggregators may not wholistically reflect market dynamics: Differences in data sample sizes and data-collection methodology, as well as self-selection bias in the publication of help-wanted ads, should be considered when drawing inferences about broad labor market conditions.

Comparing the average monthly changes in both series between February 2020 and the time of this writing reveals differences ranging from +26% to –11%. Over the past two years, the cumulative differences between both data series are relatively small; but significant differences can still be observed.

How this graph was created: Search FRED for and select “Job Openings: Total Nonfarm.” Next, click on the “Edit Graph” button and use the “Add Line” tab to search for and add “Job Postings on Indeed in the United States.” Next, click on the “Edit Line 2” tab, change the units to “Index (scale value to 100 for chosen date)” with 2020-02-01 as the index date.

Suggested by Kyla Duggal, Natasha Swindle, and Diego Mendez-Carbajo.

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