The job outlook for 2012 is more of the same with a stalled employment market expected to add only 1.3 million new positions annually — slightly lower than 2011's 1.5 million jobs, says Marisa Di Natale, Moody's Analytics director. That job outlook sounds okay until you realize that almost 9 million jobs disappeared during the recession. "We'll be in recovery mode for all of 2012," Di Natale says. It will take until 2014 for the employment market to return to its prerecession size, says Di Natale, who predicts companies will create 2.7 million jobs in 2013 and 4.5 million jobs in 2014.
The job opportunities being added back to the market will be different from the ones lost during the recession. "Many of the jobs being created are at the top and the bottom of the skill set," Di Natale says. "There's not a ton being added in the middle."
The job outlook is great for highly skilled workers (think finance, technology or engineering), along with entry-level workers in nonoffshorable service jobs (such as some hospitality jobs and healthcare jobs), Di Natale says. The job outlook for semiskilled workers is weak. Job opportunities in the middle have disappeared as technology replaces workers like receptionists, while manufacturing jobs have been offshored to lower-cost foreign workers, she adds.
Skill set focus
If you had one of the 8.75 million jobs eliminated in the recession, you'll likely need additional training or education to find a new job, especially if your skills are specific to an industry like construction, says Kerry Chou, a senior practice leader for World at Work, a human resources trade association.
"We have millions of people out of work, but the kinds of jobs that are going to be needed in the future aren't necessarily the ones where the current unemployed population can go out and get two weeks of training and switch into the careers," Chou says.
Good options include blue-collar technical training and healthcare certifications, two fields with excellent job outlooks, according to Jodi Chavez, senior vice president for Ajilon Professional Staffing, a Melville, New York, recruiting firm. You may also have to be flexible about where you live, since local economies have recovered at different rates.
If improving your skills and education or relocating to another job market aren't options for you, you'll still have more opportunity to find work in 2012 than you did in 2011. "Skilled workers will find employment more quickly in 2012," Chavez says. "However, when jobs are added to the labor pool, unskilled jobs will also be added in great number."
Some job sectors improving
The job outlook is looking up in specific industries — manufacturing (the whole industry hasn't been offshored), residential and commercial construction, and healthcare, for example — and financial services jobs are plentiful in some pockets of the country, Chavez says.
Companies are also hiring consultants to fill middle-management positions eliminated in 2008 and 2009, leaving managers stretched to the limit, Chavez says. Taking a contract role can position you to become an employee with the same company when the economy improves and companies shift from hiring contract and temporary workers to hiring permanent workers, likely in 2012.
"We're beginning to see a greater push toward permanent-placement hires than in 2011, and we're seeing confidence coming from employers," Chavez says.
Student job outlook
If you've just graduated from school, you should find more job opportunities in 2012 than in 2011. Hiring will rise 4 percent overall for all college-degree holders and 7 percent for bachelor's degree-level job seekers in 2012, according to the Collegiate Employment Research Institute (CERI) at Michigan State University. CERI predicts an improved job outlook in 2012 for students with degrees in:
• Public relations
• Computer science
• Supply chain
• Human resources
• Clinical laboratory sciences
Large corporations are "frantic" as they seek workers to replace the droves of Baby Boomers reaching retirement age, says CERI Director Phil Gardner. "Startups and fast-growth companies are hiring too, but they add as they go along."
If the economy and the political battles in Washington, DC, don't get worse in the spring, college hiring will really pick up in the summer of 2012, he predicts.
Flexibility key to job search success
"The recovery is fragile," Gardner says. And reducing the workforce via layoffs can give corporations quick cost cuts to boost the bottom line. In response, your best bet for career success in 2012 is to stay flexible. Whether it's a flexible skill set that you can apply to more than one industry, the flexibility to move where the job market is better or the flexibility to earn a new degree, stay open to change to improve your personal employment outlook in 2012.
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