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Is the U.S. Employment Rate Improving?

The signals are mixed. The November jobs report showed just 39,000 new positions created against analysts' estimates of 150,000, which was called "dreadful," "grim" and "disappointing." But a new survey by Manpower Inc., a major provider of temporary workers, finds that more US employers are planning to hire in 2011.

What does this all mean for job seekers, especially young people competing against more experienced candidates?

Anne Murguia, a recruiting expert and VP at social recruiting company Jobvite, isn't quite ready to break out the champagne and party hats yet, saying "everybody is prepared for a long slog." But she does see glimmers of hope for 2011 -- especially for well-educated job seekers -- pointing to three reasons for optimism:

  • Financial fundamentals. Companies have gotten more productivity out of the workers they have and are sitting on a pile of cash -- nearly $2 trillion. They're also seeing increasing revenues. Four out of five firms in the S&P 500 have seen revenues increase in the last quarter reported.
  • An uptick in temporary and contract hiring. A recent survey from Careerbuilder found that more employers plan to hire more temporary or contract employees than permanent employees this quarter. That's often a precursor to full-time hiring later.
  • Small business hiring. Businesses with less than 50 employees are a driver of growth in the U.S., so the ADP report that came out December 1st showing small businesses are adding the most workers is a good sign as well.
So what should you do if you're a young person looking to position yourself to take advantage of the economic bright spots and grow yourself a career with long-term potential? Murguia stresses that you shouldn't neglect your education as innovation with be a source of much future growth
If you have a college education you're definitely in a better situation for long-term growth. It's been hard for people graduating right now into this, but over the next ten years those skills are going to be really valuable. We know that the demand for college educated workers will outpace supply by 300,000 annually and by 2018 the U.S. will be producing three million fewer college graduates than we need for jobs. So if you have a college education in your pocket that is a good start.
We really see the growth in jobs in the future coming from those that require high skill. By 2015, 76 percent of U.S. jobs will require highly skilled workers, special skills like science, technology, engineering or math. That's great for people who have those kind of skills, but companies who are innovating are providing a lot of employment even if you don't have those technical skills. For example, you can work for innovation or technology-driven companies in a non-technical role and get the benefits of that growth if you're in sales, marketing or finance. A young person looking for a growth opportunity should look for those kind of innovative industries and companies and make a place for yourself there.
It also pays to allow yourself to be flexible, according to Murgaia, who points out that the jobs of the future may be in industries we haven't even imagined yet. "For example, you think of the social gaming industry, companies like Zynga that created Farmville and all the popular social network games. That industry wasn't around three years ago and now they're a great growth engine in terms of hiring." The key is to polish adaptable skills that emerging industries, from gaming to green tech, can utilize in these brand new sectors.

Do you see glimmers of light at the end of the tunnel or is Murguia over optimistic?

(Image courtesy of Flickr user .Larry Page, CC 2.0)

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