Life sciences hiring is on the upswing and the sector posted 168,576 jobs in the second quarter, up 7.4 percent from the first quarter, according to a new report released by Research Triangle Park executive search firm Carlyle & Conlan.

Year over year, life science job postings are up 1.6 percent. The second quarter numbers exceeded Carlyle & Conlan forecasts and represents the largest quarterly posting count in three years, according to the “US Life Sciences Sector Employment Pulse” report.

Within the life sciences sector, medical devices and equipment was the sub sector posting the biggest gain showing a 9.5 percent year-over-year increase in jobs postings. Postings for jobs in research testing and medical labs (RTM) were up 3.5 percent; pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing (PMM) was down 4.9 percent.

The report characterizes decline in PMM postings as “a bit of an anomaly” considering that stock market returns have exceeded employment gains compared to other sub sectors. Don Alexander, Carlyle & Conlan’s vice president, life sciences development & commercialization, said he expects hiring to return in the pharmaceutical segment.

“My thinking is that with the positive returns of the equity markets this should precipitate a better reading for PMM in the near future,” Alexander said. “Although market returns can continue to advance based on aspects like productivity gains and operational integrations without additional headcount for a time … at some point the hiring would need to begin again.”

The report does not offer a breakdown for the Triangle or for North Carolina.

The highs reached in second quarter job postings are not a complete surprise. Based on life sciences hiring cycles, the second quarter is usually the best quarter, Alexander said. The stronger second quarter results were also supported by less pharma downsizing, a solid approval trajectory for products submitted to the Food and Drug Administration, a relatively robust market for initial public stock offerings, and strong investment returns in the equity markets.

The third quarter has historically been slower but the report says momentum from the equity markets in pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing could signal growth. Carlyle & Conlan said in the report it has learned of more interview activity taking place in recent weeks. For the third quarter, Carlyle & Conlan forecasts 164,930 total postings for the life sciences sector in the third quarter.

Carlyle & Conlan wrote the report with data from Wanted Analytics, which compiles all online posted position in the United states each month.

In the second quarter, the average length of time a life science position stays posted remained constant compared to the first quarter at 54 days. An opening posted for more than 40 days is considered a more difficult fill. About 52 percent of sector position postings have stayed open for 60 to 180 days, an uptick from 46 percent in the first quarter.

Read the report online for more details.