Delaware is providing college graduates with some of their best chances for finding a job online.
Those odds are No. 1 in the nation for jobs in science, technology, engineering and math fields, as well as financial services, consulting, business services, community services and the arts.
That's according to "State Online College Job Market: Ranking the States," a first-of-its-kind report from Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce that mined online help-wanted ads seeking workers with bachelor's degrees or higher.
But some Delaware industry and labor officials aren't buying it.
The study, released last month, ranked Massachusetts as No. 1 overall, followed by Delaware and then Washington state, based on the concentration of online ads seeking college grads.
The study lists New Jersey as 14th overall, with Maryland coming in at 23rd and Pennsylvania at 32nd. College graduates face the greatest odds finding work in West Virginia, Mississippi and South Carolina, the report says.
Up to 70 percent of job openings are now advertised online, with nearly 4 million being posted each quarter – half of which seek workers with bachelor's degrees or higher.
"The college-educated job seeker who is willing to move to a state with a high concentration of job ads per worker has a greater likelihood of landing a job than those remaining in or moving to states with few job ads per worker," the report states.
To determine its state-by-state "favorability" rating, the study compared states' total number of help-wanted posts with their counts of college grads, and then compared the employment of those workers with the national average.
The study also looked at labor demands by occupation in each state.
"We found that two large occupational clusters – managerial and professional office, and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) – dominate the online college labor market, accounting for three out of every five online job ads," the report states. "These occupations offer high wages, upward career mobility and job stability."
The study ranked Delaware second in the nation for managerial and professional jobs, fifth in sales and office support, sixth in government services and ninth in healthcare professional and technical jobs.
"This is a great time to be coming out of college and looking for a job in the healthcare field here in Delaware," said Wayne Smith, the president and CEO of the Delaware Healthcare Association. "There is great demand right now for nurses and allied health care professionals, particularly as the population ages and becomes a more significant consumer of health care-related services."
Smith, however, questioned whether Delaware's numbers might be skewed because the state is dominated by larger, acute care hospitals that have embraced online job listings. Other states have a higher proportion of health care jobs in critical access hospitals with 25 or fewer beds. Those facilities, he said, are less likely to advertise job openings online.
The report concedes that Delaware's relatively small population does play a role in its rankings.
"Less populated states like Delaware that have a high concentration of college jobs will inevitably rank high using this metric," the report states.
George Sharpley, the chief of the state Department of Labor's Office of Labor Market Information said he has doubts about the accuracy of both the study's data and some of its assumptions.
"I hate to be negative about a report that's shows a lot of positives for Delaware, but some of these findings I question and I found at least one major error," he said.
Sharpley took umbrage with a statement in the report's introduction that attributes Delaware's high overall ranking to "the high concentration of corporate headquarters, creating an increased demand for college talent, especially in managerial and professional office and STEM jobs."
"They're confusing Delaware's status as the most popular state for incorporation and assuming that means those companies also have headquarters here, which the vast majority do not," he said. "In fact, Delaware in underrepresented when it comes to managerial and professional office positions at about 91 percent of the national average."
Sharpley said a more reliable statistic for judging Delaware's job market for college graduates would be the state's job growth rate.
In the past 24 months, Delaware has added jobs at a rate of 4.5 percent, which is better than the 4.1 percent national rate over the same period.
That job growth has been the strongest in several of the same sectors that include the "favorable" online college markets identified by Georgetown University study as particularly robust in Delaware, including the professional and business services, financial activities, education and health and government.
"The fact is Delaware is adding jobs at a faster rate than the national average and a lot of that is focused on jobs that require a college education," Sharpley said. "That much, I think, is indisputable."