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Professional payrolls hold clues to job market
NEW YORK |
NEW YORK (Reuters) - An April rebound in professional jobs such as health care and technology has boosted the spirits of staffing executives, although few of them see big job additions anytime soon.
Demand for workers with professional and technical skills helped moderate U.S. job losses last month, as growth in the professional area rebounded after three consecutive months of losses.
The 39,000 professional jobs added in April helped offset continued losses in construction, manufacturing and retail. Overall, the U.S. economy lost 20,000 jobs last month, much fewer than expected, and the unemployment rate ticked down to 5 percent, defying expectations for an increase.
"My big concern was professional skills and they came right back," said Tig Gilliam, who heads the North American operations for Adecco SA.
The gain in professional jobs was in marked contrast to the 2001 recession, when such jobs abruptly dried up, he said.
"It's a strong sign that, even in a sideways economy, there are good job opportunities for people with skills," Gilliam said.
On Friday, Adecco had 2,700 open positions in finance and accounting nationally and 1,800 open engineering and technology jobs. That is down from a few months ago, but may be a sign of stability in the overall labor market.
"My gut feeling is we're going to have more sideways news," Gilliam said.
EARLY SIGNS OF CONFIDENCE
Whether professional job gains continue depends in large measure on employer confidence and there are some early signs this confidence may be returning.
A survey by Chief Executive magazine on Friday found 14 percent of CEOs plan to increase hiring over the next quarter, up from 9 percent in March. The uptick follows three straight months of decline.
"CEOs are starting to wonder if the economy is at the low point," said Ed Kopko, the magazine's publisher.
A monthly employment index by Internet jobs company Monster Worldwide Inc jumped last month to 174, the sharpest monthly gain in over a year. Online technology job postings rose, Monster said, as did postings by the finance and insurance sector, suggesting some stabilization, despite widely publicized layoffs.
Still, it is too soon to talk about a reversal in hiring, given sluggish economic growth and continued caution among employers, said Scot Melland, CEO of Dice Holdings Inc, which runs specialized career sites focused on technology and financial services.
A job opening that would be filled in 60 days six months ago, now takes 90 days or longer.
"They do have open positions, but they're hesitating until they get more clarity about the economy," Melland said.
The real evidence of a wider labor market recovery will come when retail and manufacturing employers start consistently adding jobs, he said, since these are the most economically- sensitive sectors.
(Reporting by Nick Zieminski; Editing by Andre Grenon)
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