Checking the Facts: The LinkedIn Workforce Report

At NOVA, we frequently hear from educators, businesses, students, and parents about the challenges of providing career advice. The volume of information available about where the jobs are, the skills and education needed, and how to get there is simply overwhelming. So when big name entities release reports about workforce trends, people pay attention. Unfortunately, if the information provided to the public is inaccurate or incomplete, there could be a very serious, unintended consequence: students and job seekers are advised to stay away from occupations and skills that are in high demand.

Most recently, LinkedIn has started releasing a Workforce Report, reporting on employment trends for the U.S. workforce, as well as 20 of the largest metro areas in the United States. After examining the most recent February 2018 report for the Washington, D.C. metro, we have found several inconsistencies between the LinkedIn report and data provided through the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Burning Glass, and leading economists in the greater D.C. region.

LinkedIn highlights 10 skills that are in “abundance” for the Washington, D.C. region, which the company defines as a skill where the worker supply exceeds employer demand. Many skills on this list are in high-demand from D.C. employers according to online job posting data from Burning Glass. In particular, we are concerned that three of the skills highlighted in the report: PR and Communications, Software Engineering Management, and IT Infrastructure and Systems Management. These three skills are misrepresented as having an abundance in supply when employers are actually having a difficult time recruiting talent with these skills.

It is important to note that the LinkedIn data comes entirely from the company’s social media platform, which relies on data inputted by each user with a LinkedIn account. A few areas for concern when using LinkedIn data to draw broad conclusions on the workforce are:

  1. LinkedIn profiles do not represent the workforce in its entirety. There is inherent sampling bias in the LinkedIn data, as certain professionals are more likely than others to have an active LinkedIn profile.
  2. LinkedIn data used in the Workforce Report assumes that all data on user profiles is accurate and up to date. Any user can create or update their profile with false or inaccurate information about skills or education they’ve received, or forget to update their LinkedIn account to reflect changes in skills, education, or employment.
  3. Skills listed on an individual’s profile may not reflect their current employment profile. Skills represent an individual’s self-reported skill achievements over the course of their entire career, not just the skill requirements of their current position.

Below is a closer examination of the job market data for PR and Communications, Software Engineering Management, and IT Infrastructure and Systems Management from the “gold standard” source – the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The most recent data available is from Quarter 1 2017, with estimates provided through Quarter 3 2017. Data on job postings is provided by Chmura Economics, an industry leader in providing real time labor market information services.

  1. PR and Communications – There are approximately 21,081 public relations specialists in the greater D.C. area. This occupation has a regional unemployment rate of 2.2% and there are 1,794 active job postings for this occupation. 5,116 professionals are employed as public relations and fundraising managers, and this occupation has an unemployment rate of 1.1% with 575 active job postings.
  2. Software Engineering Management – There are 77,304 software developers and programmers in the greater D.C. area. This occupation has a regional unemployment rate of 2.5% and there are 9,615 active job postings.
  3. IT Infrastructure and Systems Management – There are 35,382 Computer and Information Analysts in the greater D.C. area. This occupation has a regional unemployment rate of 2.7% and there are 7,760 active job postings. There are 32,464 Database and Systems Administrators in the greater D.C. area. This occupation has a regional unemployment rate of 1.8% and there are 8,757 active job postings.

Given all of the data presented above, it appears that employers are in fact having a difficult time hiring for these three skills, with the job posting demand for these occupations greatly exceeding talent supply. LinkedIn has a wide reaching audience, with over 150 million profiles in the United States alone. If LinkedIn’s reporting continues to provide inaccurate or misrepresented data on the workforce as factual, it could cause unintended negative consequences to career advising and harm workforce development efforts to build our technology talent supply for the region.

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