The Job Market: Quickening Thaw or Just a Hot Flash?

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The job market – something I survey as unconsciously as most people breath air as part of my work  –  seems to be telling us something this first week of the Gregorian new year.

But what it is?

For a large part of the US population the Great Recession is like a parallel universe; heard about, but not part of anyone’s day-to-day existence. These are the people working in jobs and firms that appear to be only marginally affected – if that – to the unemployment and financial woes. People in places like the Dakotas, Wyoming or Nebraska, were unemployment rates are relatively low at 3-4% rather than places like the Central Valley of California (Merced, Stockton, Fresno, Modesto, and Bakersfield), Florida, Michigan or Nevada – places where unemployment ranges up near 20%. In those places this recession is a depression – with struggles day to day for many people.

I look at three things to try to gauge the job market – three things that when they point in the same direction suggest something to me:

  • What are the official stats?
  • What do job postings suggest?
  • What do I hear on the street?

And what do I pick up from those three data points? The official statistics affirm a slow move toward less unemployment, as jobless people filing for unemployment are slowing decreasing, and the number of new jobs being created is slowly increasing. Unemployment numbers reported this morning confirm a low shift downward. But it’s clearly slow, as noted in this piece from the NY Times.

Job postings? The local Craigslist for San Francisco showed a fat roster of Human Resources jobs – some 71 openings – the most for a 4 day period that I’ve seen in over five years. HR postings are one of my favorite leading indicators because employers tend to hire HR types (recruiters, HR managers, etc.) when they anticipate demand picking up for people talent.

And word on the street? An odd upsurge in calls from recruiters to sources and prospective candidates – a sign that someone is hiring.

Cut to the chase?

This may be nothing by a momentary hot flash; it is very early in the year, and pretty limited data. Nonetheless, it’s either very wishful thinking on my part or there is quickening in the job market in San Francisco and surrounding areas.

Life Back West is an occasional set of writings focused on ways people, teams and organizations can be both more effective (doing the right thing) and more efficient (doing the right thing well). More about executive, career and team / leadership coaching services can be found at the “About J. Mike Smith and Back West, Inc.” sidebar or the “Hire Me” tab above. You can also read an online interview with me at WhoHub, as well as participate in my learning community courtesy of KnowledgeCrush.

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