Improving unemployment by leveraging “adjacencies”

Posted by Shankar Mishra

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October 2, 2013

TheLadders urges unemployed to seek greener pastures.

“Unemployment rate goes down to 7.3%” – as I’m listening to the news on my commute to work, my mind wanders a bit about what a slow progress this has been, from 10% unemployment rate to the current 7.3%. 

There are still about 9 million unemployed people in the U.S. and at the same time, 3.8 million jobs are still open. 

US Unemployment Rate TheLadders GraphWe hear discussions in the media about skills mismatch, but is this disparity all due to skills? Geographical location must play a role, since the variation of unemployment rates across geography is very high – unemployment varies from 3% (Bismarck, ND) to 30% (Yuma, AZ).

TheLadders’ team decided to take a closer look at our database of professionals and open jobs to see if there are behaviors that can help alleviate the unemployment situation. Our findings revealed different adjacencies that can help alleviate the unemployment situation.

The starting point of this analysis is the landscape of job–seeker-to-job ratio, across all cities within the U.S. A higher ratio of job seekers to jobs implies a likelihood of higher unemployment rates, and similarly, a lower ratio implies a likelihood of lower unemployment rates, leading to a marketplace that is much more conducive to job seekers.

The following chart depicts the ratio of job seekers to jobs across the U.S. – green areas denote a lower ratio, implying a marketplace favoring job seekers, while red areas denote a higher level of competition among job seekers.

Ratio of jobseekers per job US Map

Jobs in Florida TheLadders MapAs we take a closer look at the geographical distribution, certain areas, such as Southern Florida, parts of Tennessee and Michigan, have relatively higher ratios of job seekers per job. However, a distance of 200-300 miles makes a big difference in the quality of marketplace. For example, job seekers in Miami face over twice as much competition than the job seekers in Orlando or Daytona Beach.

This pattern is not limited to Southern Florida – similar patterns exist in other parts of the country. Job seekers in Charlotte face twice as much competition than job seekers in Atlanta. As denoted by the diagrams below, similar patterns emerge between Los Angeles and San Francisco. While alternate locations may be an acceptable proposition to some of the job seekers, it may not be a feasible for others.

Jobs in Southeast & California

Fortunately, as we dig deeper, a pattern of functional adjacencies also starts to emerge. The ratio of job seekers to jobs varies widely across industries, within a specific geographical location. For example, Automotive and Aerospace industry may not seem to have anything in common; however, there are quite a few migrations from one to another in different functional areas, such as B2B sales, Engineering, Information Technology, etc. Similarly, for a city like Detroit, which hosts one of the country’s most competitive job markets, there are job functions in as healthcare, engineering, and education that are ripe with opportunity. A schematic of variation within the number of job seekers per job across various job functions in the top DMAs is given below.


There are a few things to note here – most notably is that job seekers in almost all job functions depicted have a favorable location (denoted by green), and similarly, all job seekers in all cities have one or more job functions that favor them.

For instance, while there may be lots of competition in Miami for marketing jobs (8+ job seekers per job), job seekers would have more opportunity with healthcare jobs (under 2 job seekers per job) and law jobs (under 4 job seekers per job). Similarly, if marketing professionals in Charlotte don’t want to move to Atlanta, it may be beneficial for them to broaden their search to include marketing jobs within healthcare (5x better) or financial (3x better) companies in Charlotte.

Some examples of viable skills-based career transitions to less competitive job functions include:

  • Sales to healthcare: business-to-business sales to pharmaceutical sales
  • Education to healthcare: educational research to biotech research & development
  • Marketing to technology: product marketing to product management

At TheLadders, our focus remains to consistently find the right person for the right job. In the markets where the number of job seekers per job is rather high, finding the right job is even more difficult. While we’re not claiming that these findings are the panacea for economic growth today, we do know that each incremental match between a job seeker and the right job, created by leveraging adjacencies, counts towards improving unemployment, and hence, creating value that may have the flywheel effect of pushing economic growth, quicker and higher.


Shankar Mishra is the Vice President of Data Science and Analytics at TheLadders. When he is not working to find a simpler solution to difficult problems, he is brainstorming ways to leverage available data to tell a good story. Some of this brainstorming may very well take place on a golf course with three strangers in his foursome.

Topics: TheLadders Insights