Published on Jobs and Development

What we’re reading about real time labor market data

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Woman sitting at her laptop and searching for a job on the internet
Real-time labor market data, such as job postings, can provide insights on labor market dynamics and can be leveraged to inform evidence-based policies. Copyright: Riccardo Mayer/Shutterstock

Real-time labor market data, such as job postings, are increasingly filling a key knowledge gap, including in developing countries. While its use started in the 2010s, mainly using US data, it has expanded rapidly to a range of countries. Access to up-to-date and granular data on job skills requirements, in-demand occupations, and the changing nature of jobs is critical for labor market stakeholders, from policymakers and employers to jobseekers, students, and all who help connect people with jobs.

With big data techniques, this information is more readily available and can provide insights on labor market dynamics and can be leveraged to inform evidence-based policies. This information is particularly relevant for developing countries, which tend to face some of the greatest labor market challenges, with pervasive market and institutional failures, and where understanding of the local labor market landscape is mostly missing and needed the most.

Job posting data has been used to answer specific questions on a diverse range of labor topics. A series of studies show how labor markets have evolved in skills requirements, type of occupations and tasks. A few researchers also examined how COVID-19 impacted labor markets soon after the outbreak, reinforcing the importance of real-time labor market information sources when many traditional surveys suddenly stopped and mostly lost relevance. Others have used online job posts to uncover labor market dynamics such as explicit gender discrimination, labor market tightness and skill requirements, the impact of geographic location on job search, and use of remote work during COVID-19.

Despite providing an increasing diversity of labor market insights, online job posting data have limitations. For instance, in contrast to traditional labor market information, these data are often biased toward specific sectors, occupations, firm size, skill level, and geographic coverage, particularly in contexts where online postings are not as widespread. Some researchers are overcoming data quality issues and limitations through validation with traditional labor market data.

Even with these challenges, real-time labor market data can support initiatives for more, better, and inclusive jobs. By strengthening labor market monitoring and analysis, these data can inform active labor market programs and workforce development policies to better align skill supply and demand; local economic development strategies; and equal employment opportunities policies and anti-discriminatory programs. Other stakeholders can use the information such as students making more informed decisions about their field of study; job seekers and employers identifying skills demanded in an occupation; and researchers exploiting new datasets to expand the knowledge frontier on labor market challenges.

Real time labor market data

Essential readings

Broader jobs agenda

This blog is based on the April 2023 edition of the Knowledge4Jobs newsletter, curated by the World Bank’s Jobs Group and Labor and Skills Global Solutions Group. Click here to sign up for the Knowledge4Jobs newsletter.


Clemente Avila Parra

Senior Social Protection Economist

Carla Agustina Froy

Consultant, Education Global Practice & Communications Lead, Solutions for Youth Employment (S4YE)

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