March 2010: Managerial Hiring Improves Again. Will the Rest of the Job Market Follow?

March 2010: Managerial Hiring Improves Again. Will the Rest of the Job Market Follow?

Author Employment Index

Good news for job seekers, as the volume of available jobs in the U.S. is up nearly 28% this year.

Is this the beginning of the end of the so-called "Great Recession?" After enduring months of layoffs and an increasingly bleak job market, managerial job seekers are now enjoying the longest period of sustained hiring growth since last summer, as the volume of available jobs across the U.S. has increased by nearly 28% from the beginning of the year.

For many job seekers, 2009 was a year of inconsistency – hiring activity dropped precipitously, at one point falling by 33% in three months, then staged a surprising recovery before losing ground again in the fall. And when 2010 opened with yet another drop in job availability (a 4% decline, to an Index score of 70.8), it appeared that unemployed workers would be facing yet another year of uncertainty. However, an impressive surge in managerial hiring over the past two months has brought the volume of job openings nationally to its highest point in 19 months, and within 10 Index points of 2007 levels.

See full hiring statistics in our USA Index, and for more info check out our Methodology and FAQ pages

According to the Employment Index, which measures the volume of managerial online job openings across the U.S., job availability rose by 7.1 points in February, to an Index score of 90.4 overall. After a year of relative inconsistency, this marks the first time job availability has grown by more than 5 points for two straight months since 2007, and represents a 46.3-point improvement over hiring levels from March of 2009.

To determine monthly hiring activity, the 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 March's overall score of 90.4 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 26 months, the 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 90.4, on the other hand, is 9.6 points worse than the base measurement in 2007.

While the national trend has been encouraging over the past two months, examining hiring data by individual U.S. region reveals a more nuanced picture. In March, job availability improved dramatically in the Southwest and Southeast, which saw gains of 8.9 and 6.2 points, respectively. On the other hand, both the West and Northeast saw little-to-no change in hiring activity, and the Midwest actually lost ground, as job availability in the region fell by 10%. After leading the nation as the best U.S. region to find a new job in February, this puts the Midwest in a virtual tie for third place with the Southeast, and leaves the area trailing the Southwest by more than 10 points.

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

While the Midwest suffered substantial losses as a whole, the region's cities actually managed to maintain a stable volume of jobs last month. In fact, of the 30 major metro areas surveyed month by the Employment Index, not one city lost ground in March – though several performed considerably worse than others. Leading this rebound in per capita managerial hiring were San Francisco (up 21%), Milwaukee (up 21%), Detroit and Hartford (each up 17%), yet of these only San Francisco performed well enough to rank as one of America's 10 best cities to find a job. And despite an impressive performance in March (and a 42% improvement since the beginning of the year), Detroit remains the 3rd-worst U.S. city for finding managerial-level employment.

The list of top U.S. cities for finding a job remained stable in March, as each metro area benefited from the overall increase in hiring. That said, gains among the top four cities were significantly greater than those on the bottom half of the 10-best list, indicating an increasing disparity between the job markets in Washington, D.C., Boston, San Francisco and Seattle and those in the rest of the nation. In particular, Boston's 14-point gain puts the city on pace to overtake Washington, D.C., as America's best city to find a job by late summer.

Check out the 10 Best and 10 Worst Cities to Find a Job

Similar to March's regional data, last month's hiring activity by specific job title was less consistent than the national average. The volume of available Manager and VP job openings continued a dramatic rebound that began in February, increasing by 15% and 8%, respectively. While still trailing Manager by seven points, the gain in VP hiring in March caps an impressive, 85% increase in demand for the job title over the past two months. At the current rate, the availability of VP jobs will exceed all other managerial titles within two months.

In addition to the gain in VP hiring, demand for Manager and Director-level candidates also showed healthy gains. After rising to 1st place in February, the availability of Manager positions continued to lead all other job titles, and while the number of available Director jobs fell slightly behind VP, it also posted a strong, seven point gain for the month. Bucking the trend, however, was demand for C-Suite candidates, as the level experienced a two point loss in job availability. After leading all other job titles as recently as August 2009, the volume of available C-Suite positions has slid by nearly 25%, and demand now trails 3rd place Director level by 19 points.

Low demand for C-Suite candidates notwithstanding, the recent surge in availability of managerial positions has largely served to erase losses sustained during the past year. Director level demand is now at its highest point since August 2009 (trailing that month's Index score by just one point), and the volume of available Manager and VP positions is now higher than at any point since August 2008, when the recent financial crisis was just beginning.

See complete info on job availability by title going back to January 2008 in our Job Level Index

With hiring gains across a majority of regions and job titles, and in every major city in the U.S., managerial candidates are in a better position to find employment now than at any point in the past 18 months. But as managerial hiring improves, will other sectors of the job market follow? An increase in the availability of managerial positions often means that businesses are thinking more positively about the future, which would bode well for workers across all job levels. However, with national unemployment still hovering below 10%, hiring will need to increase steadily throughout the year before any serious impact is made on joblessness.

For complete information on employment by region, job level and the 10 best and worst cities to find a job, the Employment Index's findings can be found in our detailed scoring pages.



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