Employers Cautious as Unemployment Rates Level

The cold weather seems to have slightly frozen the unemployment slide in November, according to the monthly U.S. report issued this morning (Dec. 4). The number of unemployed individuals (15.4 million) dipped to 10 percent from October’s 10.2 percent. This is still high when compared to the 4.9 percent rate in Dec. 2007 at the start of the recession.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Long-term unemployed individuals (those jobless for 278 weeks or more) increased to 5.9 million (38.3 percent) from 5.6 million in October. Those who worked as “involuntary” part-time workers remained fairly flat at 9.2 percent, dropping 0.1 percent from the previous month.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Greatest losses were experienced again in the construction (down 27,000) and manufacturing (down 41,000) markets, as well as in information (down 17,000). The retail sector, which was one of the lowest ranking markets in October, seems to have pulled itself up a bit, with department stores adding 8,000 positions due to seasonal hiring. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Jobs were most abundant among professional and business services (up 86,000), temporary help services (up 52,000) and healthcare (up 21,000). Transportation and warehousing, financial activities, and leisure and hospitality jobs showed little change from October.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Mickey Matthews, Stanton Chase’s managing director for the Baltimore office and regional vice president of North America, was not surprised by the flat results. “That is exactly what we’ve seen in that we feel there’s been a little bit of a leveling off. That’s exactly what we expected.”<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Matthews said he’s seen a bottom, and that’s good news for those currently employed. A study released earlier this week by Challenger, Gray & Christmas, planned job cuts in November continued to decline, totaling 50,349 cuts (down 9.6 percent). This marks the lowest rate since Dec. 2007. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Yet, while layoffs and cutbacks have slowed significantly, Jeff Quinn, senior director of research with Monster.com, said we’re not out of the woods. According to Monster.com’s monthly Employment Index, online hiring remained stagnant in November, with a slight decrease of one point.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> “We’ve seen that everyone is being a little bit cautious about how they’re going to spend their money and where they’re going to be hiring,” said Quinn. “They’re going to continue to hire the most critical hires that they need to fill, but at the same time I don’t think we’re going to see [changes in hiring] anytime soon.”<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Mathews said the challenge for job seekers is that “it’s still a buyers market on the corporate side. The companies or clients are very tight in their criteria and parameters for hiring so there is some selective hiring. We expect bigger increases and more hiring in about six months.”