Disparities between supply and demand in the US market for clinical research personnel may be starting to narrow, a recent survey suggests.

The survey of 13 US-based staffing firms representing a broad cross-section of the clinical research industry was carried out by Norman Goldfarb, managing director of First Clinical Research LLC, at the 44th Annual Meeting of the Drug Information Association in Boston, US last June. Goldfarb reported his findings in the Journal of Clinical Research Best Practices (Vol 4, No. 8, August 2008), which is published by First Clinical Research.

The firms interviewed focus largely on pharmaceutical employers and contract research organisations (CROs), rather than research sites. The biggest chunk of this market is for clinical research associates, Goldfarb noted.

As in previous years, he asked the question: “Over the past year, in clinical research, for your firm, roughly what percentage increase or decrease did you see in the number of open positions and the number of people looking for a new position?”

In the corresponding survey last year, all of the firms interviewed had seen increases in demand. In the latest survey, five firms saw increased demand, five less demand and three no change over the course of the year.

There was a similar contraction at the level of supply. In the 2007 survey the average firm saw a 10% increase in supply, whereas in this year’s survey the average firm saw no change in supply. In other words, Goldfarb said, “the median firm saw no change in either supply or demand over the past year”. At the same time, he added, the wide variation in results from firm to firm has remained similar over the three years the survey has been conducted.

“The stability of the market is markedly different from the 2006 and 2007 survey results,” Goldfarb commented. “While the employment market remains vigorous, with high demand for qualified candidates, next year’s survey may reveal significant changes of direction.”

Anecdotal reports suggest some companies may be bringing their employee recruiting programmes in-house, “which would cause staffing firms to perceive a relative decrease in demand”, he pointed out.