In the final moments of trading on the final trading day of the
year, the S&P 500 dipped .04 points into the negative for the
year, or -0.0032 percent. In many ways it seemed like a fitting
conclusion. The questions and concerns that investors, consumers,
employers and employees faced in the United States and abroad over
the last year have been both foundational and astronomical in their
scope, with many left unresolved.

In Europe, a growing chorus of critics has brought into question
the future of the world’s largest currencies. In Asia, countries
with a massive slice of the world’s global population have started
to remove the term “emerging” from their economies’ status. Many
Latin American countries, for the first time in modern economics,
seem to have survived a crippling global downturn with successful
monetary policy. In the United States, we saw a credit rating
agency report that America’s debt, for the first time in more than
70 years, was not without risk and economists began to build
economic models for how the global economy might function without
the U.S. at the top of the pile.

“For the last few years, we’ve gotten to December, looked back
and had to admit it wasn’t as good a year as we were hoping it
would be. Now, no one wants to risk being too positive about 2012
and what it could mean for the economy and jobs,” notes Rob
Romaine, president ofMRINetwork. “At the same time, there is enough
information to at least say, ‘this is one that could surprise

A recent survey by the Conference Board said consumer confidence
rose from 55.2 to 64.5 points between November and December, while
its Expectations Index rose from 66.4 to 76.4 points. The
Conference Board also cautioned against optimism while reporting a
1.28 percent increase in its Employment Trends Index from 102.42 to

“In the management and executive ranks, we’ve seen an increase
over the last six months of employers seeking to back-fill
positions vacated because of resignations, showing an improvement
in the portability of talent in the labor market,” says Romaine.
“Employees are finding and accepting new jobs, and their former
employers are discovering they can’t leave those positions

Top employed candidates sticking their proverbial foot into the
labor market have added to the pool of available talent over the
last half of the year. The demand for candidates has also
increased, with the number of job postings calling for a bachelor’s
degree having risen by nearly 20 percent in the last year. Many
employers’ processes for screening and interviewing mid- and
senior-level candidates has continued to elongate and the amount of
time top candidates remain on the market has actually shrunk, while
multiple offers have increased in frequency.

“There aren’t any large single events on the calendar in 2012
that are going to take up the slack in the labor market, and we
have no reason to expect that issues hanging over the global
economy are going to come to an immediate or even a positive
resolution,” says Romaine. “At the same time, there is a pretty
solid foundation of reasons to suspect that the economy will
maintain a modest pace of growth and that total employment will
continue to slowly improve. And, there’s even a chance that the
economy could do better than we expect.”


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