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Insights from the latest Pharmacy Demand Indicator

  • Publish Date: Posted about 6 years ago
  • Author:by Jason Poquette BS Pharm, RPh

​Rene Descartes once said that “perfect numbers like perfect men are very rare.” Maybe this is especially true when it comes to the numbers which make up the PDI (pharmacist demand indicator). But if the PDI is even just a somewhat reliable guide, there might be an encouraging (albeit modest) rise in jobs opportunities for some pharmacists in the year to come. According to the 2017 Q4 PDI data, the average community pharmacy job opening scored 3.37. The PDI is measured on a scale of 1-4, with anything over 3.0 indicating a higher demand for pharmacists than supply. This was the highest score for community pharmacy of any quarter in 2017. Institutional (hospital) came in at 2.64, the second lowest number for that job setting last year.

For those who have watched the PDI (formerly referred to as the ADI) over the years, you understand that this is a subjective assessment of how difficult it is to fill a job opening for pharmacists. Some have objected to the subjective nature of this measure, and therefore discounted its value. But as I have argued for a long time, there is simply and unfortunately no solidly objective way to address this issue. Subjective impressions are what we are stuck with. It’s not a perfect number. But if we are willing to trust the anonymous (and presumably unbiased) opinions of these individuals, the data may be useful to us.

One thing to note are the states which have a demand indicator of 3.5 or higher. These are the areas with presumably the greatest demand for pharmacists right now. During the last quarter of 2017 there were 7 states in that category: CA (north), IA, MI, MN, NV, OR and VA. The VA inclusion is interesting, as they had previously been in the 2.01-2.49 range in Q3 and never above 3.0 in 2017 until Q4. Maybe now might not be a bad time to consider relocation to Old Dominion?

Concerning, however, is the number of states that fall below the 2.5 number (remember that 3.0 means an even supply and demand, and 2.0 means that demand is less than the supply). In Q4 a total of 15 states came in at 2.5 or lower. This is better than the 26 states at that level in Q3. However, Q1 and Q2 of 2017 only had 5 states in that low demand range. Florida came in at a pretty miserable 2.2. Utah and Mississippi both came in worse at 2.0.

The PDI website has been collecting data long enough to also show some interesting trends. For example, my home state of Massachusetts has always tended to trend worse (lower demand for pharmacists) than the rest of the nation over the past 5 years. But in 2 out of the last 3 quarters, it has actually trended above the national average with demand nearing a 5 year high. Conversely a state like Idaho which has historically always had a demand for pharmacists near or above the national average, dipped well below the U.S. average for all of 2017.

Finally, it should be noted that the latest data continue to show that “managers” tend to have the most consistently high demand in all markets. In all 4 quarters of 2017, demand for pharmacists in “manager” roles never dropped below 3.0. This was not true for “specialized” pharmacists (e.g. Oncology, ED, pediatrics, etc.) or “staff” pharmacy positions. That said, it should be pointed out that the West (including states like CA, AK, HI and OR) appear to have a very high demand right now (Q4 rating of 4.52) for specialized pharmacists.

Descartes was right.  Perfect numbers are rare. So are perfect pharmacists. And perfect jobs. The PDI is not a perfect number. That’s okay. It can still be a good tool, and when used as such, might just be the career advice you’re looking for.