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State of the Labor Market

Insights for Policymakers from Indeed Data

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New International Monetary Fund report shows value of real-time data during sudden economic shifts.

Key Points:

  • Since the start of the economic crisis brought on by the pandemic, Indeed has been sharing timely data on labor demand with policymakers around the world.
  • In the latest issue of Finance & Development, Wenjie Chen of the International Monetary Fund shares some of the insights gained from Indeed data.
  • For a sample of 22 countries, job postings dropped about 50% in the early weeks of the pandemic. 
  • There were uneven effects for women and for lower-skilled workers, with postings for jobs with a higher female representation and postings for lower-skilled workers seeing more dramatic declines.  

Timely economic data becomes crucial in a crisis. In normal times, monthly or quarterly data releases may be sufficient to check in on the health of the economy.  In the face of a major break in the economy, however, weekly or daily data become essential. The economic decline around the world in March of 2020 was swiftly visible in Indeed job postings data. Recognizing that our data has important insights for policymakers to use to help people get jobs (Indeed’s mission), the Indeed Hiring Lab team quickly put together updates on labor demand that we’ve been sharing in our blog posts, as well as with policymakers around the world.  One active partner has been the International Monetary Fund, which used Indeed data in a recent World Economic Outlook chapter and has now released further research showing the value of detailed, high frequency data when the economy suddenly shifts.

In the latest issue of Finance & Development (F&D), Wenjie Chen, a senior economist in the IMF’s Asia and Pacific department, combined Indeed job postings data with information from the International Labour Organization (ILO) to document the trends in job postings overall, by gender representation, and by skill level. Aggregating across 22 countries, Chen showed that job postings dropped around 50% compared to February 1 in the weeks following March 11, 2020, the day the World Health Organization officially declared the pandemic.  Although job postings have seen a gradual recovery since the trough in April, they’re still below the trends of 2018 and 2019.  

Zooming in on the unequal effects of the pandemic, Chen divided the job postings of the 22 countries in her study into two groups based on female representation, as reported by the ILO sector classifications, and found that postings for jobs with higher female representation saw a greater drop relative to the 2019 trend. Jobs with higher female representation include hospitality, childcare, and restaurants and entertainment, all areas particularly hard hit by closures due to the pandemic. Chen also used the ILO sector classifications to group postings into high, medium, and low skill requirements and found that the trend in low-skill postings fell more dramatically, particularly when compared to high-skill postings, although even the high-skill postings saw steep declines and have not returned to the 2019 trend. 

These insights are important for policymakers to understand the disparate effects of the pandemic, which groups may need particular support and help to find jobs, and what kinds of policies may have the greatest impact. Having data on a timely basis and with enough detail to identify the most affected has been a key contribution of the partnerships between Indeed and policymakers.