After a long pause of nine months or so, the Pharmacy Workforce Center website with the latest job market data for pharmacists is back online. The gap has been related to several transitions going on, including turning the role of principal investigator over to Professor David Kreling and moving to new terminology and reporting methodology as well.

What was formerly referred to as the Aggregate Demand Index (ADI) will now be called the Pharmacist Demand Index (PDI). The rating scale of 1 to 5, however, has remained the same.

Those unfamiliar with this project should know that the information about job availability is collected from panelists involved in pharmacist hiring throughout the U.S. They rate the ease or difficulty of filling certain positions, and this information is then converted to a scale in which "1" would indicate a very low demand (saturated market, easy-to-fill positions) and "5" would indicate a very high demand (hard-to-fill positions) for pharmacists.

Granted, the information is subjective, but frankly there is no conceivable method of a more objective approach that would, in my opinion, be any better.

The PDI breaks down the market demand both by region and by three job types (generalist, managers and specialist pharmacists). The most recent data covers information about job availability from panelists for the last quarter of 2016. What does this data tell us?

1. The overall PDI for the U.S. is slightly over "3" indicating that demand is just a bit over supply. While this information is somewhat useful, most pharmacists are not looking for jobs on a national scale, and are probably more interested in the market in which they live or are already licensed.

2. The PDI broken down into nine U.S. regions gives us a bit more useful information. For example, it is clear from the regional data that the Northeast still (as in previous reporting) has the lowest overall demand for pharmacists. This low demand is undoubtedly a result of the greater number of pharmacy schools per capita than other areas of the country. The highest demand remains in the western states.

3. The overall range, however, of low demand to high demand seems regionally much narrower than I recall being reported in previous versions of this data. For example, the lowest regional demand anywhere in the country is a 2.60 for specialized pharmacists in New England and the highest was a 3.98 for managers in the Pacific states.

4. When looked at by state, however, the big swings in market demand were much more dramatic. For example, the states with the lowest demand for pharmacists according to this data are Nevada, Maryland and New Jersey (in the 2.01 to 2.49 range). Connecticut and North Carolina were not far behind at 2.50. States with the highest demand were Alaska (not surprising) and Northern California with ratings at 4.0.

5. Lastly, it is worth pointing out that a "specialist" pharmacist (like oncology, infectious disease, etc.) was not necessarily in much higher demand than staff pharmacists in many regions. In fact, in some areas of the country the demand was actually higher for staff positions.

How, exactly, should pharmacists who are concerned about the overall job market interpret all this information when it comes to looking for work or deciding where to relocate? This is a tough question. No one should be basing major life decisions and relocation plans solely on the information provided by this data.

That being said, it may be a good idea to factor in a potentially longer search for a job in any of the 17 states with a demand index less than 3. Also, it is worth noticing that getting specialized certifications or experience does not necessarily translate into a job market with much greater demand.

Like almost any profession, pharmacists need to actively manage their own careers. I'm grateful for information like that provided by the PDI, while at the same time recognizing that finding a great job usually involves a lot more than a favorable demand ratio.