Unemployment lineAs the year winds down and December's holidays fast approach, many Americans' attention naturally shifts away from the workplace to more personal matters. But with the nation enduring its second consecutive holiday season of around 10% unemployment, lots of people, especially those looking for work, are eager to see the nation's jobless rate drop.

Despite the seeming lack of progress, however, an increasing number of observers, citing a preponderance of positive data, are expressing optimism that the stagnant labor market is finally beginning to gain momentum.

Last week, for example, the number of Americans filing for initial unemployment benefits fell by 17,000, the second such drop in three weeks, and at 421,000, the figure is the second lowest of the year. Further, the four-week average of new claims, considered a more accurate measure, is its lowest level since before the heart of the economic crisis in 2008.

Upbeat Assessment

Of course, jobs remain a priority for the Obama administration, which is why the president is meeting with 20 of the nation's CEOs on Wednesday to discuss ideas for creating jobs and making the U.S. more competitive among nations. The need to boost employment is one reason Obama is eager to see the tax deal that he brokered with Republicans become law. As many analysts have pointed out, the legislation is in effect a second stimulus, designed to encourage consumers to spend and businesses to hire more workers.

Another sign that the employment front is brightening emerged from an annual economic forecast luncheon held in Phoenix, Ariz., earlier this month. Arizona, along with California, Nevada and Florida, was among the hardest hit states in the recession in part due to its economy's reliance on economic activity in the construction sector.

The gathering of about 1,000 local business and civil leaders listened to a panel of economists who offered an upbeat assessment of the advances the overall economy has made this year, according to the WorldAtWork Post blog. Not the least of those, noted by economist Joel Naroff, were 11 months of consecutive job growth and double-digit increases in sales of software and automobiles.

'Definitely Frustrating Right Now'

Naroff said the national economy should be extremely strong and generating "large job growth" by spring. But the problem, he said, is rather simple: Americans, given their penchant for immediate gratification, are expecting a quick, robust recovery -- not one that's slowing building steam on the back burner.

To many Americans, a slow boil doesn't feel much like recovery at all, and that's likely why the uptick in the economy has seemingly come in fits and starts. Consumers who are concerned that the economy may indeed reenter recession -- the dreaded "double-dip" -- aren't keen on spending big when they feel vulnerable to job loss.

"The situation is definitely frustrating right now," says John Challenger, CEO of Chicago-based job-services firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Though jobs have been added each month this year, the gains have come at a very slow pace. "It often looks and feels like every two steps forward is met with one step back," Challenger says.

Employers Are Hiring

Still, like Naroff, Challenger is optimistic that the job market will improve steadily next year. Planned job-cut announcements tracked monthly by his firm declined significantly in 2010. Through the end of November, employers have announced a total of about 498,000 job cuts this year, down 60% from the 1.243 million announced during the same 11-month period in 2009.

Further, Challenger says employers, despite perceptions to the contrary, are indeed hiring. In the six months ending September, 25.7 million workers were hired, according the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Job Openings and Labor Turnover survey. At the same time, however, the total number of workers who either quit or were fired equaled 25.4 million, resulting in a net plus in overall employment of about 300,000.

That modest outcome leads Challenger to remind frustrated job-seekers to bear in mind that the employment market is fluid and thus constantly changing. "Part of a successful job search is being in the right place at the right time," he says, and that requires a combination of preparation, strategy, networking and perseverance. If Challenger and the other economists in Arizona are right, that search may be successful in 2011.

Challenger, Gray & Christmas will be hosting its annual two-day national job-search hotline on Dec. 27 and 28. Job-seekers can get more information about it at http://challengeratworkblog.blogspot.com.

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The problem is the country doesnt need a few hundred thousand upper end computer jobs we need millions of jobs for Billy Bob,

December 26 2010 at 4:37 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply


December 17 2010 at 8:51 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
welcome butch


December 14 2010 at 1:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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December 14 2010 at 11:44 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

I am a small business owner and have tried to give many youth the oppertuinity to learn a trade but they just don't have what is needed to succeed! Most have zero mechanical ability and NO desire to learn! I have to constantly confiscate cell phones to try to keep their mind on what they are doing. Very few will even show up on time, and that is why I have older men as my supporting cast, many with some type of substance abuse problem like achohol but at least they show up on time, have some mechanical ability and pay attention to what they are trying to do!

December 14 2010 at 10:52 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Art Miller

Saw a show on free speach tv yesterday, when a company can get a shirt made for seven cents do you really think they will bring their work back to the usa.

December 14 2010 at 9:27 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

When a new tier 5 extension was overlooked the unemployment numbers went down. Now that many are once again falling off the unemployment rolls, the numbers will once again start to look better. I wish Washington would stop playing the numbers game and realize that REAL people are hurting need an extension that should be voted on and given today, not tomorrow. While people continue to play politics and worry more about for the wealthy the gap between the middle class and the upper class continues to grow. Unemployment isn't much for most folks but it does help to keep them afloat. Now how can someone even make up the weeks they are being forced to wait while they debate for the tax cuts? Just goes to show you who really matters in this country, the extension should have passed by now and not piggy backed the tax extensions.

December 14 2010 at 8:01 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

i live in a small tn. town and when gm. closed here and moved to mich. the company i worked for building seats for gm. had to close also ive been out of work for a year with no luck finding work ive worked for fourty years and have never seen it so bad i dont have the answer but i will say this i think they should cut these high paid, rich politians pay and make them live like so many of us have had to live for awhile and maybe they would help the job markets

December 14 2010 at 6:26 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply

When the paradigm changes no matter how good a product or service you have, it is obsolete. Certain jobs are not coming back. Technology has replaced certain jobs and made the need to pay premiums for talent go away. Where are the jobs. They may be all over but at a rate less than you are use to or require different skills you do not possess. So what is your plan? Sit and wait until your unemployment runs out? Retrain? Move to a place your skill is in demand? Be serious! Look at all the jobs that vanished over times: Typewriter mfg., Blacksmiths, horse carriage mfg., crystal watches, turntable mfg, walkmans, fabric mills, telephone operators, clerks and secretaries. Retail sales is a low paying job so going to college to get a liberal arts degree (degree in communications these days) is not an avenue for many to high paying careers.

December 14 2010 at 6:22 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

sheepies don`t need jobs, just wait your turn to be fleeced

December 14 2010 at 5:57 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply