November 2009: A Return to Recovery? Employment Improves

November 2009: A Return to Recovery? Employment Improves

Author Employment Index

Hiring gains return in November, but after steep losses in recent months, a complete job market recovery likely is a long way off.

After an unexpected decline in hiring over the past two months, the U.S. employment market is on the rebound once-again. The number of new job openings across a comprehensive selection of employment websites saw a modest increase in November, marking the first sustained period of hiring growth since August. That said, after a sharp downturn in job availability during the early fall, which is traditionally a good time of the year to find a job, it may be a while before hiring returns to levels seen before the economic collapse of late 2008.

According to the Employment Index, which measures the volume of managerial online job openings across the U.S., job availability rose by 5.9 points in November, to an Index score of 73.7 overall. After the Index lost 11.4 and 0.6 points in September and October, respectively, this marks the first month of positive job growth since August. But job seekers are likely to view these figures with caution – the employment market has already seen a far more dramatic rebound in hiring between May and August, when job availability rose by nearly 90%. And yet despite speculation at the time that the employment crisis had ended, the number of available job openings once again plunged in September, erasing much of the preceding gains.

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To determine monthly hiring activity, the Employment Index surveys the volume of managerial positions posted online across the U.S., as well as data on top regions, job levels and cities using proprietary employment data hand-counted by a team of researchers. What does November's overall score of 73.7 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 23 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 73.7, on the other hand, is 26.3 points worse than the base measurement in 2007.

While the overall hiring rate rose in November, some parts of the country fared better than others. Continuing its run as the top-performing area of the U.S., the Northeast saw job availability rise by 6.5 points in November, making it the only region to post a year-over-year improvement for the month. This performance is no doubt aided by the fact that six of the 10 best cities to find a job are located within the Northeastern U.S.

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, Washington D.C. continued its reign as the best city to find a job in November, with an overall Index score of 135. To put the performance of the nation's capital in perspective, this month's last-place finisher, Riverside, Calif., managed a per capita job availability score of just 13. Other interesting surprises in November included San Francisco's continued strong performance, as the city boasted approximately twice as many job openings per capita as Los Angles. Tech centers Seattle and Boston rounded out the top five, remaining in 2nd and 4th place, respectively.

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

Tracking managerial job openings across the U.S., the Employment Index also breaks down hiring by four employment levels: C-Level, VP, Director and Manager. Mirroring the national trend, most levels showed healthy, though unspectacular improvement in November, with the notable exception of C-Level, which continued its recent free fall with a five point decline to an Index score of 57, down from a high of 90 (and lead position among all job levels) posted as recently as August. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the availability of Manager jobs was greater than expected last month, as the level posted a nine point increase to an Index score of 73. This marks the first month of increased availability for Managerial positions since July, when the level boasted an Index score of 77.


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