June 2010: U.S. Employment Activity Returning to Pre-Recession Levels

June 2010: U.S. Employment Activity Returning to Pre-Recession Levels

CareerCast.com/JobSerf Employment Index

Following an unexpected downturn in May, employment activity across the U.S. improved last month. But will it be enough to make a difference for millions of unemployed workers?

Ever since the hiring market hit bottom in April of 2009, many job seekers have been waiting anxiously for a recovery in employment activity – one that, unfortunately, always seems to be just around the corner. The beginning of 2010 brought a period of sustained growth, as hiring improved by 30% in four months and reached its highest levels since 2008. However that momentum reached an abrupt end in May, when employment activity unexpectedly slipped 4% during a traditionally strong hiring period.

Now, after a modest rebound in June, the job market once again appears to be on the road to recovery. According to the latest CareerCast.com/JobSerf Index, employment activity increased by 3.6 points last month to reach an overall score of 92.6. And while an increase of 4% for the month is relatively minor, it represents a 53% improvement in hiring over June of last year. In addition, this recent jump has pushed employment activity to its highest overall level since August 2008.

To determine monthly employment activity, the CareerCast.com/JobSerf 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 June's overall score of 92.6 mean? The Index measures employment activity 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 30 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 92.6, on the other hand, means that employment activity is still 7.4 points worse than the base measurement in 2007.

Index Month Index Score Monthly Change
June 2010 92.6 +3.6
May 2010 89.0 -3.3
April 2010 92.3 +1.9
March 2010 90.4 +7.1
February 2010 83.3 +12.5
January 2010 70.8 -3.1
December 2009 73.9 +0.2
November 2009 73.7 +5.9
October 2009 67.8 -0.6
September 2009 68.4 -11.4
August 2009 79.8 +1.6
July 2009 78.2 +17.8
June 2009 60.4 +3.8
May 2009 56.6 +15.2
April 2009 41.4 -2.7
March 2009 44.1 -5.4
February 2009 49.5 -12.2
January 2009 61.7 -4.5
December 2008 66.2 -10.9
November 2008 77.1 +3.7
October 2008 73.4 -14.3
September 2008 87.7 -18.0
August 2008 105.7 +5.4
July 2008 100.3 -2.3
June 2008 102.6 +6.8
May 2008 95.8 +1.6
April 2008 94.2 -15.1
March 2008 109.3 +0.3
February 2008 109.0 +8.7
January 2008 100.3 +/-0

While an increase in hiring is welcome, unfortunately June's modest improvement is unlikely to make a noticeable impact on unemployment claims for the foreseeable future. Summer is traditionally a slow period for hiring, meaning that a full recovery in employment activity won't happen at least until the fall. That said, if the job market holds at pre-recession levels through the summer, this would set the stage for a substantial improvement in employment activity over the following 6 months.

Hiring may be at its highest point since 2008, but tracking employment activity over the past two and a half years reveals that the job market is still considerably weaker than it was before the "Great Recession" began. At 92.6, the CareerCast.com/JobSerf Index score is still a full 10 points below June 2008 levels, and it trails every pre-recession month from that year. Considering that at the height of the recession employment activity had fallen approximately 160% from 2008 levels, this means that job seekers are likely to need the pace of recovery to increase dramatically before the lines at unemployment offices begin to get shorter.

While overall hiring in the U.S. is showing slow but steady improvement, breaking down employment activity by region reveals less consistency. Most regions benefitted from the national trend and recorded modest gains, but one in particular actually lost ground in June. In addition, another region continues to lag so far behind the country that it is in danger of missing out on the recovery altogether.

Career Topics
Employment Trends