Some Good News on the Jobs Front

Published jan. 12, 2012

The latest jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) brought some good news to start the New Year:

  • There were 200,000 new payroll jobs and unemployment continued to trend downward at 8.5% in December 2011.
  • BLS reported that, from June 2010 to June 2011, employment increased in 215 of the 322 largest U.S. counties.
  • Interestingly, one of the regions of the country hardest hit by the recession, Ottawa, MI, posted the largest rate of employment increase, with a gain of 4.7% over the year, compared with national job growth of 0.9%. Within Ottawa, the largest employment increase occurred in manufacturing, which gained 2,514 jobs over the year (9.0%).
  • The U.S. manufacturing sector has shown new life as both exports and production for domestic markets have increased, creating some limited demand for workers in this sector.

More evidence of slow but steady recovery in the job market comes from the Job Opportunities and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS), a monthly BLS survey of employers to assess job openings, hiring, and separations. There were 3.2 million job openings in November of 2011, up 30% from when the recession ended in 2009. According to BLS estimates from the JOLTS, there were 48.6 million new hires and 47.2 million new separations for net gain of 1.4 million between November 2010 and 2011.

The Conference Board, a respected business research organization, reported that its Help Wanted OnLine indicators of labor demand (online advertised job vacancies) rose by 93,800 in December of 2011 to 3.9 million after remaining relatively flat for most of the year. According to Conference Board analysis, however, there still are 3.5 unemployed workers for every advertised online vacancy.

In a new survey by Harris Interactive of over 3,000 hiring managers and HR professionals across the U.S., Harris analysts estimate that 36% of companies will hire temporary or contract workers this year, up from 34% in 2011, 30% in 2010, and 28% in 2009. Positive indicators in hiring such workers serve as leading sign for signaling future job growth.

CareerBuilder, a national job matching and career services firm, provides labor market analytics through its new Supply-Demand Portal, integrating online job postings with resumes on file. Based on data from CareerBuilder’s Supply & Demand Portal, these are the most in-demand staffing and recruiting positions, broken down by industry:

Health care

  1. Occupational or physical therapist
  2. Speech language pathologist


  1. Maintenance Technician or Mechanic
  2. CNC (computer numerical control) machinist information


  1. Java or .Net developer
  2. Network engineer


  1. Administrative assistant
  2. Customer service representative


  1. Business analyst
  2. Marketing assistant

Burning Glass Technologies, another purveyor of online job postings data with its Labor Insight tools, extracts more detailed information about skills and certifications from online job postings. For the most recent quarter (October-December 2011), the top 3 baseline skills reported for the 3.5 million job postings consisted of:

  • Communication skills (853,946)
  • Writing (760,230)
  • Customer service (760, 097)

For specialized skills:

  • Sales (895,556)
  • Marketing (363,891)
  • Oracle programming language (205,138)

With increasing frequency, employers are asking for certifications and tested qualifications in addition to skills and educational credentials, in jobs such as:

  • Commercial Drivers License (35,124)
  • Licensed Practical Nurse (30,962)
  • Basic Cardiac Life Support (19,222)
  • Project Management Certification (19,170)
  • Certified Nursing Assistant (17,864)
  • Certified Public Accountant (15,988)

To be sure, we have a long way to go before we can celebrate success in the job market, and there are millions of Americans experiencing the hardship of job loss and inadequate incomes. However, economic recovery is most likely to come in small increments and we must remain attentive to subtle changes in the labor market. These subtle changes will also have significant variation from region to region. If we are to successfully reconnect these millions of Americans who are still out of work with the emerging opportunities, we must monitor market developments, understand changing skill requirements, and adjust our education and training strategies and programs accordingly.

Photograph courtesy Delta Funders Workforce Collaborative, 2011