Is The Job Market Starting To Get Back To Normal?

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The prediction is that we'll see a 2 percent increase in job growth in 2010. On the surface, that would seem like good news. But, there is an underlying story here -- the story of a changing job market. In 2010, an increase in jobs doesn't mean that the lost jobs are returning.

It had been several months since I had seen my neighbor Roger, a software engineer. I had heard from another neighbor that the start-up company he had been working for couldn't raise the necessary working capital, and as a result, 300 employees lost their jobs. 

Roger was one of the lucky ones. He found a job almost immediately. The only catch: It's in Stockholm, Sweden. It's a killer commute to Minneapolis. But, that's exactly what he's doing. Three weeks there. One week here. For Roger, the changing job market means that you go wherever you have to go in order to be employed.

When I saw him Friday night, Roger had just arrived home from the airport. He looked terrible. I asked how the new job was going. "It's great. I love the people. I love the work, but the location sucks," but then he added, "I feel so fortunate to have a job."

As Roger and I stood in our respective driveways, he said he knows of at least 10 talented engineers at his level that have been out of work for over a year with little hope of finding a new job. When they can, they take consulting gigs. For them, the changing job market means that their skills may never command the kinds of salary or opportunities that they once did.

Officially, the unemployment rate for January was 9.7 percent.

According to the recent Gallup Poll, nearly 20 percent of the American workforce is underemployed. That's about 30 million Americans. My neighbor Roger is underemployed. He has a job, but he doesn't have the benefits or the salary that he once had.

Gallup classifies respondents as "underemployed" if they are employed part time but want to work full time or are unemployed.

The implications of 30 million underemployed Americans are staggering. The Gallup Poll suggests that the underemployed spend about 36 percent less than those who are gainfully employed. On a day-to-day basis, Gallup says a gainfully employed person spends on average $75 a day while someone who is underemployed spends just $48 each day.

Despite that sobering news, there is a glimmer of hope. States are now beginning to report job gains. California is reporting they have more new jobs than the neighboring states of Arizona and Nevada. Minnesota is also reporting that it added 15,000 jobs in January. That's the biggest one-month increase since 2005. Washington state says January 2010 was the first month of job gains since November 2008.

Where are those job gains coming from? The Olympian reports,

The industries that saw the greatest job gains included retail trade, which added 3,000 jobs, educational and health services, up 2,800, and construction, which gained 2,700 jobs.

Leisure and hospitality gained 1,600 jobs and professional and business services added 1,000, as did manufacturing. Other gains included information, up 900; wholesale trade, up 800; and aerospace and parts manufacturing, up 600.

Unfortunately, there were sectors that continued to hemorrhage jobs, including transportation, warehousing and utilities. has a list of the 10 most in-demand jobs for 2010.  Biomedical engineers top the list. Dental hygienists are evidently in demand this year, so are veterinarians.

Regardless of the profession,  many career paths are changing. In Canada, a group of educators is holding a workshop on how to deal with their changing job market.

Academic institutions are increasingly moving towards employing faculty on a part-time or full-time, non-tenure-track basis. Each year sees the creation of more dual- and multi-language positions.

Carrie Brown-Smith, an associate professor at The University of Memphis, writes about the changing world in journalism at her blog, The Changing Newsroom.

As an academic and former journalist, I have dedicated my career to finding ways for journalism to survive and even thrive in whatever medium engages readers. I believe that democracy depends on journalism and that the core values of journalism are as vitally important now as ever.

Harvard Law School is also writing about new strategies for the changing job market for attorneys.

This year’s graduating class will see only 80 percent of the firms that participated in the on-campus recruitment process last year return, according to Mark Weber, assistant dean for career services. Meanwhile, starting salaries are down and deferred starting dates are up.

How is the job market changing in your profession? Are salaries dropping? Are career paths changing?  Is there any belief that your work life will return to the way it was before the economy tanked?

BlogHer Contributing Editor: Business & Career

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