Economic Impact: Online job ads in Virginia show increase in wages & sign-on bonuses

With talk of recession increasing, analysts are scrutinizing all the economic indicators for signs of a slowdown. Job postings are a good indicator to watch because they are updated daily and are a leading indicator of employment trends because businesses don’t post job ads unless they expect demand for their good and services to continue to increase.

Chmura’s real time intelligence job postings showed a slight slowing in job posts in Virginia during the last week of May, but not a sharp drop. In fact, new online job ad volume reached a high in the first quarter of 2022 at 334,567 ads. This exceeded the previous post-COVID peak which occurred in the second quarter of 2021 at 301,589. New job ads hit a trough of 200,624 in the second quarter of 2020 as lockdowns due to the pandemic were first put in place.

The recent surge in job ads has been especially strong among white-collar jobs in Virginia and across the nation. Following the decrease in job ads coinciding with the initial COVID lockdowns, blue-collar jobs recovered the quickest, partially due to increased demand for transportation and material moving jobs. White-collar and services jobs appear to be finally catching up in terms of relative growth in new job ads since the beginning of 2020. Some white-collar jobs with especially high job ad volume in early 2022 include registered nurses, software developers, and secretaries.

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Aside from the continued increase in job ads, the more interesting trend is the uptick in wages and sign-on bonuses in some occupations that reflects continued tightness in the labor market. Wages in 2021 made a substantial jump in Virginia and across the nation, particularly among lower-paying jobs. This trend has continued into the beginning of 2022. Prominent occupations with lower-than-average wages have been hard to fill and have seen a corresponding increase in compensation as employers attempt to fill these positions. Wages disclosed in job ads indicate double-digit percentage increases in pay for these openings which include many food-service jobs (food prep workers, waiters and waitresses, and cooks) as well as retail positions.

The practice of offering sign-on bonuses in Virgina remains at elevated levels, a sign of a continuing tight labor market. About 1.7% of all new jobs ads in January 2020 explicitly mentioned a sign-on bonus. This practice began increasing in popularity in the second half of 2020. By January 2021, 2.5% of all job ads in Virginia included sign-on bonuses, increasing to 5.4% in April 2022.

Sign-on bonuses have been and continue to be more popular among blue-collar occupations such as truck drivers. Fourteen percent of all ads in Virginia for blue-collar workers mentioned a sign on bonus in April 2022. This benefit has also grown among some service and white-collar jobs but the percentages are much lower at 5.3% and 3.8%, respectively.

Christine Chmura is CEO and chief economist at Chmura Economics & Analytics. She can be reached at (804) 649-3640 or receive e-mail at

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