January 2010: Job Availability Declines Slightly

January 2010: Job Availability Declines Slightly

CareerCast.com/JobSerf Employment Index

After recent gains, the number of available jobs declined again in January, postponing a sustained employment recovery for at least another month.

January tends to be a good time to find a job. Job seekers ramp up their efforts as holiday distractions fade, and companies have fresh budgets and revamped action plans that require the addition of new personnel. That said, given the level of economic uncertainty, the job market of January 2010 is very different from those of years past. In fact, after showing steady improvement since November, hiring activity fell in January by more than 4%, indicating that a full employment recovery make take longer than previously expected.

According to the CareerCast.com/JobSerf Employment Index, which measures the volume of managerial online job openings across the U.S., job availability fell by 3.1 points in January to an Index score of 70.8 overall. After increases of 5.9 and 0.2 points in November and December, respectively, this marks the first month of negative job growth since October. While this still represents an improvement over January 2009, considering that job availability typically surges at the beginning of the year, even a slight loss means that the job market will continue to be highly competitive over the coming months.

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To determine monthly hiring activity, the CareerCast.com/JobSerf Employment Index surveys the volume of managerial positions posted online across the U.S., as well as the top regions, job levels and cities using proprietary employment data hand-counted by a team of researchers. What does January's overall score of 70.8 mean? The Index measures job availability against a base score of 100, which represents the volume of job openings during the same period in 2007. A score higher than 100 means that there are more available jobs than in 2007, while one below 100 means that job seekers now have fewer opportunities available. Over the past 24 months, the CareerCast.com/JobSerf Index peaked in March 2008, with an index score of 109.3, or 9.3 points better than in March 2007. This month's score of 70.8, on the other hand, is 29.2 points worse than the base measurement in 2007.

While hiring across the U.S. was down on average in January, not all regions suffered the same fate. In fact, the Northeast, Midwest and Southwest all had an improved hiring outlook in January, with the Southwest in particular rising by 4.7 points, or nearly 6%. This also marks the third straight month of increased job availability for each region, although gains in the Northeast have been minimal. By contrast, the Southeast and West continued to fall behind the rest of the nation, suffering losses of 9.6 and 4.0 points, respectively. Following two months of improved activity, the steep decline in online job openings across the Southeast pushed the region back to within just 3 points of the West, which finished as the worst U.S. region to find a job for the second month in a row.

See complete scores and Index tracking information for all parts of the U.S. in our Regions Index

Looking at U.S. cities with the most available job openings, for the seventh month in a row Washington, D.C., remained the best city to find a job, although it's overall Index score fell slightly, to 131. There was little movement below the nation's capital, as the next three cities on the list – Boston, San Francisco and Seattle – all remained unchanged in January. Baltimore, however, showed a notable improvement, gaining 6 points to finish as the fifth-best city to find a job, surging ahead of both Atlanta and Chicago in the process. On the other end of the spectrum, Riverside, Calif., also marked its seventh straight month at the bottom of list, managing a job availability score of just 13. In addition, Los Angeles' employment market continued to contract, as the city again fell two places in January, finishing as the eighth-worst U.S. city to find a job.

Check out the 10 best and worst cities to find a job

Tracking managerial job availability across the U.S., the CareerCast.com/JobSerf Employment Index also measures hiring by four employment levels: C-Level, VP, Director and Manager. Breaking from the national trend, movement varied greatly among the different levels in January, with both C-Level and Director hiring showing a mild improvement of three points. This marks the second straight month of improvement for C-Level, which had suffered heavy declines in job availability since August. The most surprising change, however, came in the availability of VP jobs. After gaining steadily since September, the level fell by a full 20 points to an index score of 48, finishing in last place overall.


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