In June, total job openings in the U.S. grew to 3.76 million,
according to the Labor Department, the highest level since the
summer of 2008. In the past 36 months, job openings have grown more
than 70 percent, far surpassing the recovery following the last
recession, in which job openings grew just 47 percent in the same
time frame.

Meanwhile, the unemployment rate has fared worse in the 36
months following the current recession than in the previous one.
Between September 2003 and September 2006, unemployment fell 25
percent from its peak, from 6 percent to 4.5 percent, while in the
current recovery’s 36-month period, unemployment has fallen only 14
percent, from 9.6 to 8.3 percent. So where is the disconnect
between job openings and falling unemployment rates?

“Enough confidence has returned to the market that most
employers have lifted blanket hiring freezes and are expanding the
range of positions they are working to fill outside of those
directly tied to incremental revenue,” says Rob Romaine, president
of MRINetwork. “We are seeing search activity
growing across more functions, but actually making that final
hiring decision among most employers has only increased

Recruiters continue to report that hiring processes have been
drawn out by managers having unrealistic expectations of candidate
credentials and experience in the current unemployment situation.
Yet, evidence shows that the top candidates such managers are
looking for are more likely to reject offers the longer the hiring
process becomes.

“In the recruiting industry, we talk a lot about the importance
of having a streamlined interview and offer process regardless of
the state of the economy because while there is high unemployment,
there is also a growing talent mismatch in the United States. What
this means is that while there are plenty who are unemployed, there
are still very few who fit the needs of a given pasteurization in
the professional space,” notes Romaine.

In nominal, non-adjusted numbers, total U.S. employment peaked
in August 2008 and fell precipitously for 15 months, reversing
course in January 2010. In that time, nearly 11.5 million jobs were
eliminated. The professional and business services sector-about 13
percent of the U.S. private workforce-lost nearly 2 million of
those jobs. The construction industry, which represented less than
7 percent of the private workforce, lost 3 million jobs from peak
to trough.

In the two years since that employment trough, the professional
services segment of the workforce has returned all but about
200,000 positions. In fact, the much broader U.S. service providing
sector, which accounts for more than 80 percent of the 113 million
U.S. private sector jobs, has recovered all but about 300,000
positions. Of the 4.2 million-job decline since the peak of U.S.
employment, half of those positions-2.1 million-are in
construction, and another 1.8 million are in manufacturing.

“With today’s levels of advanced training, certifications, and
degrees it can be difficult to move between even similar career
paths quickly,” says Romaine. “But going from a factory floor or
construction site to a professional office job is such a
fundamental change that it requires both training and a veritable
career restart. Such a change of course is possible, but the
availability of such workers does little for employers looking for
experienced professionals today.”

It could take several more years for the mix of skills in the
U.S. talent market to properly recalibrate. In that time,
unemployment will remain heightened while the skills of the
workforce move to more closely match the requirements of job
openings today. 

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