Rays of Hope for Job Hunters -- http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/25/jobs/25search.html?ref=jobs
By PHYLLIS KORKKI
Published: April 23, 2010
FOR the first time in two years, many job seekers may have reason to feel hopeful. Employers are beginning to hire again — or at least think about it.
Although the unemployment rate remained at 9.7 percent in March, and many economists expect the rate to stay high for some time, there are now some very positive signs. And they go well beyond other government figures showing that employers added 162,000 nonfarm jobs for the month.
The shift is most apparent in job postings, which have begun to surge. Indeed.com, which collects job listings from thousands of sources, reported a 19 percent increase in postings in March, versus the same month last year.
The number of postings rose in 10 of 12 industry categories. (The only category that declined was health care, one of the few bright spots during the recession.) The industries that showed the biggest uptick in March openings were retail, up 42 percent; hospitality, 33 percent; and media and newspapers, 30 percent.
“The opportunities are growing fast,” said Paul Forster, chief executive of Indeed.com, which culls its information from sources like corporate Web sites, newspaper classified ads and job boards. Granted, the increases are coming from a low base, he said, but they are still encouraging.
Recruiters are also seeing signs of life in hiring. For one thing, said Bill Driscoll, New England district president for the recruiting firm Robert Half, “There are more people going to work on a temporary basis than there were six months or nine months ago.” That’s often a sign that permanent hires are not far behind, he said.
The job market is still very competitive, he added. While companies are hiring more people on a permanent basis, he said, those decisions are strategic and cautious.
Regional differences are stark. Indeed.com says jobs per unemployed person are most plentiful in Washington, D.C., followed by San Jose, Calif., Baltimore and New York. On the other hand, among 50 metropolitan areas, job seekers in Miami, Detroit, Los Angeles and Sacramento face the most competition.
Economists have been using the phrase “jobless recovery” to describe how this upturn will play out, and the Obama administration says that for the nation as a whole, high unemployment is likely to linger a while.
Still, the current outlook is a contrast to the deep gloom of 2008 and 2009. Companies’ profit reports, recent retail sales, manufacturing and other data are generally improving. At some point, businesses will have more work than workers, and will need to hire.
Tamara Erickson, an author and work-force consultant, said the recession masked a long-term trend that will intensify: a worker shortage caused by the continuing retirement of baby boomers.
Suddenly, she said, employers are starting to realize that they don’t have, or won’t have, people with the skills they need. Some are starting to worry, she said, while others “have no idea what’s going to hit them.”
Her advice to job seekers? “Cheer up,” she said. “The real possibility of finding a job that you’ll like is increasing every day.”
The new picture is likely to affect both those who are employed and those who aren’t, as well as businesses that will be in the unfamiliar position of having to hire — and of wondering whether they can retain their best workers.
Many people have stayed in jobs they dislike — and that became more stressful as they took on the work of laid-off colleagues — because they fear that there is no alternative.
Others took jobs that weren’t a good fit because the market was so competitive, said Barbara Safani, owner of Career Solvers, a career management firm in New York. Now, some of these people will start to look again.
At first, these factors will mean more competition for the unemployed, she said. But, eventually, the situation should bring more opportunities for everyone: as those who are already employed move to new jobs, there will be a ripple effect of openings.
People can be more confident in finding the right career fit, Ms. Safani said, and they shouldn’t let doubts about their worth in the marketplace, aggravated by the recession, hold them back.
SOME employers have been lulled into complacency by the recession, Ms. Erickson said: “They haven’t been thinking about a talent shortage for two years now.”
The onus is now on companies to make sure they keep their most valued workers, Mr. Forster said.
The most vulnerable companies may well be the ones that maintain recession-era staffing while taking on recovery-era work. These companies will demand more from their employees without offering much in return.
“Employers want to be very cognizant of how they’re engaging their current employees,” Ms. Safani said. They need to reward their workers, monetarily or otherwise, she said, or risk seeing them walk out the door.