July 2010: U.S. Employment Activity Improves 15.4%

July 2010: U.S. Employment Activity Improves 15.4%

CareerCast.com/JobSerf Employment Index

Employment activity across the U.S. continued to rise in July, marking a 51% improvement since the beginning of the year.

Summer is typically a weak period for hiring, but during the great recession of 2009, the job market defied expectations and actually improved by a surprising 29% over the summer, reaching its highest point in 11 months. Now a year later, the same trend is emerging. After several months of stagnant performance, hiring across the U.S. jumped by 14.3 points in July, a gain of more than 15%.

According to the latest CareerCast.com/JobSerf Index, employment activity rose in July to an Index score of 106.9. This is the first time that overall employment activity in the U.S has crested the 100-point mark in nearly two years, and represents a 38% increase over July of 2009. That said, despite being at its highest point since March of 2008, employment activity needs to improve further in order to make an impact on the national unemployment rate. With joblessness still at a 20-year high, the number of available job openings across the country will have to increase significantly before unemployment can drop back to its customary range of less than 6%.

To determine monthly employment activity, the CareerCast.com/JobSerf Index surveys the volume of managerial job openings available online across the U.S., as well as the regions, job titles and major cities with the highest number of employment opportunities. Results are determined using proprietary employment data hand-counted by a team of researchers. What does July's overall Index score of 106.9 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 31 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 106.9, on the other hand, means that employment activity is now 6.9 points better than the base measurement in 2007. This is the first time that employment activity has beaten its 2007 base score since August 2008, just before the economic crisis leading to the "great recession" began.

Index Month Index Score Monthly Change
July 2010 106.9 +14.3
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

With a 14.3-point gain, July posted the largest single-month increase in employment activity seen in a year, ending a recent period of stagnation when hiring remained trapped within a 4-point window. But while impressive, this performance was actually 3.5 points worse than last July's increase, when the Index jumped by 17.8 points (or 29.4%). Unfortunately, last year's gains were quickly erased when employment activity fell by 11 points over the next three months, and the job market didn't regain this lost ground until February of this year. While there is concern that this cycle will repeat itself in the coming months, one striking difference between the current job market and that of 2009 is that hiring is finally beginning to outpace layoffs, which has helped the unemployment rate drop by 1% since January. If this trend continues, August's job market could the strongest the U.S. has seen in three years.

Examining employment activity in more detail, July's impressive performance was mirrored in most U.S. regions as well. For the first time since February, every region managed to gain ground for the month, although one in particular fared significantly worse than the rest. In addition, the largest percentage gain for the month was enjoyed by the region that has posted the worst performance this year, although it still trails the rest of the nation by a significant margin.

Career Topics
Employment Trends