Scrolling for Jobs: A Look at Online Activity in Regional Labor Markets

Julie Trivitt

Download Report

Changes in technology and communications over the past 20 years have transformed labor markets around the world and made online job searches the norm for most firms and workers in the US. Just look at the growth of LinkedIn, an American business and employment-oriented online service. More than 25% of US adults are LinkedIn users today, according to Pew Research Center. It is a social media platform available in 200 countries, and LinkedIn states that “100 million job applications” are sent each month. Thus, scrolling on-line for a job has become almost expected.

Whether the labor shortage existed prior to COVID-19 or not, many employers have been beefing up their recruiting efforts amidst the “great resignation.” While the answer is not crystal clear on how to close the gap, there are some trends business leaders and policymakers can consider for potential employees who are looking for jobs online.

This report looks at the rates of job ads and resumes that were posted online for 74 career paths in 98 regions of the U.S. from July 2020 to June 2021 – one full year and during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Occupational and geographic patterns that emerged in these job search activities were analyzed and we used additional state-level data to determine, ultimately, which features of state labor markets are most closely associated with the measures of online job search activity.  

The patterns and characteristics identified in the data can help business leaders and policymakers more accurately assess their labor markets and make decisions likely to foster economic growth. Four primary conclusions were made:

  1. When predicting online job search activity in a region, occupation matters more than location. Generally speaking, accountants in Mississippi post resumes like California accountants post resumes, and Mississippi teachers post resumes like teachers in California. The differences in rates at which job ads and resumes are posted online across occupations provides some clues about how well regional labor markets are working and which occupations may benefit from additional tools to facilitate job searches. 
  2. Online postings of resumes and job ads varies by location. Other regional differences in posting rates emerge after adjusting for the regional occupations and their online job search patterns Metro regions generally have more online job search activity than non-metro areas, but the difference is greater for resume postings than job ads. The differences in the rates at which job ads and resumes are posted provides insights into where labor markets may be out of balance – in other words, where they have more applicants than job openings, or vice versa.
  3. Not surprisingly, internet access influences how much online job search activity takes place. States with more internet infrastructure have higher rates of online job ads, but interestingly, more resume posts show up in states where more people face challenges accessing high speed internet at home.
  4. Public health issues and policies during the pandemic also shaped online job search activities:
    • States where cities, employers, schools, and other local institutions were free to determine the mask or vaccine policies for themselves had higher rates of job ads posted.
    • There’s also a connection between vaccination statistics and online job searches. States with higher vaccination rates have higher rates of posted job ads, but states with higher vaccine utilization rates (the number of doses delivered to a state compared to the number administered) have lower rates of online resume postings. While we cannot establish a direct link with the data used in this analysis, we suspect the link between vaccinations and labor markets comes through trust in institutions.  The Pew Research Center ¹ ² has documented differences in institutional trust which would likely influence the perceived costs/benefits of the vaccines as well as a willingness to engage in labor markets during a pandemic.

This interactive dashboard lets you see the job ad and resume posting rates for metropolitan and non-metropolitan regions of each state for each of the 64 occupation groups.  Use the drop down state menu to choose the state(s) you want to see.  You can hover a point to see what occupation and what the job ad or resume posting rate is for the region.  The online job search rates are relative to the national average for the occupation, so a score of 1.25 indicates 25% more postings than expected.

The Public Health Policy Index is a measure of how free local entities were to set their own virus mitigation policies during the pandemic. A score of 0 means a local entity was free to do what they feel best.  A negative score indicates mandates were passed at the state level they local entities were expected to enforce.  A large negative score indicates bans were passed at the state level that prevented local entities from setting policies.

This interactive dashboard was created by William Bounsavy, an intern at Heartland Forward. 




Download the report