16 Jul 2011

The promise of real-time labor market information

Anatalio Ubalde is an economic developer, entrepreneur, and inventor. He works with organizations throughout the nation to foster enhanced economic development strategies using Internet technology. His work in geographic information systems, economic development and the Internet has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Forbes, Fortune, The New York Times, TechCrunch, and Inc. In 2009 he was named a Fellow Member of the International Economic Development Council for achieving exceptional stature in the field of economic development.

The Council for Community and Economic Research held their annual conference in San Francisco this year, where the brightest and geekiest minds in economic data analysis convened for a week-long series of trainings and workshops just blocks away from GIS Planning’s headquarters.  While many new tools and approaches to economic research were presented and discussed during the week, one relatively new concept seemed to be on everyone’s mind: real-time labor market information. Traditionally, economic developers have received their information on the labor market from government sources like the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  However, there is significant lag time using such sources, so rather than knowing what the local job demand is like right now, it has only been possible to know the demand from a few months prior.  The traditional tools provide no way to look at churn within the job market, and to assess what the hiring needs are in industries that are declining overall. Now, several solutions (Burning Glass, Monster Government Solutions, etc.) have arisen that “spider” job postings from thousands of sites and eliminate duplicate ads in order to provide a real-time picture of job openings by occupation within a community.  Economic developers can see which employers are hiring for specific occupations and industries, and they can use keyword analysis to determine what skills are most in demand in their region.  Organizations like the Connecticut Economic Resource Center have garnered attention for embracing this technology. There are still drawbacks to this technology.  Not all job openings are posted online, especially in rural areas.  Moreover, the keyword search technology is not perfect.  For example, a keyword search for “child care” may include both jobs in child care as well as jobs for which child care is an employee benefit.  For these reasons and more, real-time LMI should be considered as a complement to traditional LMI, not a replacement.  However, when it’s necessary to know what is happening in your local economy now as opposed to several months ago, there is no substitute for real-time LMI.


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