One of the sticking points of our slow economic recovery is the mismatch between the number of long-term unemployed workers and jobs that are going unfilled. Some 3.1 million Americans have been out of a job for more than 27 weeks, yet there are 4.6 million jobs open nationwide. Job site Glassdoor and other participants in last month's 21st Century Jobs Data Jam in Washington have been working on new ways to connect those job seekers with vacancies. Proper training and skills are crucial, but so is knowing where the jobs are.
To make it easier to see where demand for particular workers is high, Glassdoor debuted Job Explorer this week. It's a suite of tools to make job searching easier and more efficient, especially for the long-term unemployed. Job Explorer already has one high-profile fan: Vice President Joe Biden, who got to work with a beta version last month in Washington. Biden mentioned Glassdoor's new project in his July 22 report to President Obama on job training and economic recovery.
What makes it different?
Three things set Job Explorer apart from traditional online job databases. First, it creates a customized visual map of job opportunities. Next, it lets job seekers factor in a spouse or partner's career goals in the search. It also suggests realistic alternate career paths for those who can't find work in their original field or who want to make a change.
To do all of this, Job Explorer uses existing Glassdoor data on available jobs and the career histories of its members, plus outside unemployment data and population statistics to create a new way to view America's job landscape -- one intended to help the long-term unemployed, but which can help other job hunters, too.
The Motley Fool spoke with Vikas Sabnani, Glassdoor chief statistician and data scientist, about Job Explorer's potential to close the gap between the unemployed and unfilled jobs.
"Especially for people without a high level of skills, there are three options," Sabnani said. "Relocate, switch to a related but more in-demand career, or go back to school. The new Job Explorer addresses two of those three options."
He added that 20% of people who search for a particular type of job on Glassdoor leave the location field blank, indicating that they're willing to move for the right job. But a no-location search for "nurse," for example, returns a list of hundreds of thousands of jobs nationwide -- hardly the most efficient way to browse.
Seeing where the jobs really are
By using Job Explorer, a job-title search creates a map of the U.S. with each state color-coded according to the likelihood of finding such a job there. That probability is calculated using Glassdoor data on the absolute number of open jobs, government unemployment data, and the number of relevant openings.
From there, a click on any state reveals county-by-county data so job seekers can pinpoint their search to the areas with the most opportunities. A click on a county shows the relevant job openings in that area.
Though the tool was originally designed to help the long-term unemployed find jobs, Sabnani says its potential is broader. "There are three audiences that can benefit from this: the low-skill unemployed, a younger person looking to launch a career, and CEOs, who actually relocate more often than the average worker."
Bringing home more bacon
For a low- to middle-income household, one breadwinner probably isn't enough to meet expenses and save, Sabnani said. And there are plenty of "trailing spouses" who know firsthand the challenge of finding a new job every time their partner needs to move for work. The Glassdoor "partner search" feature lets users see not only where their own job skills are most in demand, but where their partners' skills are, too.
When a Job Explorer user selects partner search, the resulting map is color-coded to show the best opportunities for the searcher, the partner, and the locations with the best combined opportunities in their fields.
Plotting a new career path
Sabnani said the team realized that not all job seekers can pick up and move. "If relocation is not an option, what other work can we do?" The resulting job progression tool suggests related careers based on job switches that other Glassdoor users have made over the past five years.
Job Explorer suggests those jobs, along with statistics on how many users have actually made the job switch, and the average annual salary for those suggested jobs. Job seekers can then use the map to see where alternate jobs for themselves and their partners are most in demand, opening up more options and increasing the likelihood of finding work.
Sabnani didn't rule out the possibility that Job Explorer could eventually include other countries in Glassdoor's global database. But for now, it applies exclusively to U.S. jobs, in part to meet the challenge of reducing the number of long-term unemployed Americans. "We wanted to reach people who might be giving up," Sabnani said, "by helping them realize there is still opportunity."