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engineering news and insight

Employment News Brief - June 1


The economy continues to sputter on its return to stable recovery. May employment numbers showed little change this month, adding 69,000 nonfarm payroll jobs and the unemployment rate dipped to 8.2 percent in May. Private-sector employment added 82,000, with professional and business services decreasing for the first time in months by -1,000 jobs. Healthcare employment rose by 33,000, and has risen by 340,000 over the year. Manufacturing employment continued to trend up in May adding 12,000 new jobs.

Clearly, both employers and U.S. workers are exercising caution when it comes to hiring and seeking new employment respectively. The periods of instability along the road of economic recovery, although expected, continue to momentarily shake the building confidence of companies and employees.
  • Within healthcare, employment in ambulatory health care services, which includes offices of physicians and outpatient care centers, rose by 23,000 jobs.
  • Since the most recent low point in September 2009, employment in professional and business services has grown by 1.4 million.
  • Manufacturing employment continued to trend up in May (+12,000) following a similar change in April (+9,000). Job gains averaged 41,000 per month in the first quarter of this year.


worker confidence levels mixed, worker confidence remains steady

Several mixed reports were out this month regarding employee confidence, illustrative of how fluctuations in economic reports can influence worker confidence. According to the most recent Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index, Americans’ confidence in the economy dropped to 64.9, its biggest decline in eight months. Yet in another consumer sentiment index released by University of Michigan and Thomas Reuters, rose to its highest level since October 2007 to 79.3.

When it comes to worker confidence levels, the Randstad U.S. Employment Report shows just over a quarter (27%) of employees believe the economy is getting stronger, no change from last month. However, 41 percent of workers are confident in their ability to find a new job.

housing market slightly improving, still impacting job market
A recent economic report by S&P/Case Shiller released Tuesday of this week points to a bumpy revival of the housing market, after many experts believe it has bottomed out. The index for U.S. single-home prices edged higher in March, the second month of gains in a row.

Also, the median price for a new home rose 4.9 percent in April, year over year, while sales of existing homes rose 10 percent last month versus April 2011. However, housing has a long way to go and it continues to impact workers’ ability to find or pursue new employment. Workers are reluctant or simply unable to relocate for jobs given their current situation. For example, nearly 16 million homeowners owed more on their mortgage than their home was worth in the first quarter this year – or nearly one-third of U.S. homeowners with mortgage.

job outlook for 2012 graduates much brighter
This year’s college graduates are entering a much brighter job market than even they may have expected given they began their college years the same month in 2008 that Wall Street collapses sent the economy spiraling into recession.

However, because of this reality, many of today’s graduates were smarter about job searching –beginning networking or laying the groundwork even as freshmen. Another effective approach used by graduates was to pursue internships or temporary assignments as ways to bridge to full-time employment after graduation. A strengthening job market has also been a boon to job-hunting seniors, with 1.3 million jobs being created in the last 18 months.

The reality is that simply having a bachelor’s degree in today’s market delivers a competitive edge, particularly when you consider the significant difference in unemployment rates based on education. Furthermore, once a graduate lands their first job and is in the working world for two to three years, the unemployment rate further improves.
  • Workers with less than a high school diploma have unemployment rate of 13.0%; High school graduates unemployment rate drops to 8.1%; some college experience improves unemployment rate to 7.9%; and college degreed workers enjoy an unemployment rate of 3.9%.
  • The unemployment rate for workers aged 20 – 24 is a staggering 12.9%. However, 25 to 34 year olds boast an 8.2% rate.
  • The unemployment rate for college graduates 24 and under averaged 7.2% from January through April. That rate is down from the first four months of 2011 (9.1%), 2010 (8.1%), and 2009 (7.8%).

contingent work arrangements, high growth occupations provide opportunities
Particularly as the economic recovery remains choppy, companies are still relying upon contingent labor to help maintain workforce variability and hire hard-to-find talent for high demand positions. This means that for many job seekers, pursuing contingent or flexible work assignments can be a foot in the door to employment, and even long-term permanent employment. Also, several professions are in great need for workers with specialized skills, including IT specialists and engineers.