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2010 Hiring Outlook

Will the Labor Market Start Showing Signs of Life?

2010 Hiring Outlook

No matter what your career, salaries probably won’t go up in your field during 2010. On the bright side, those who don’t have any salary will be more likely to find work in 2010, because economists predict the labor market will finally start gaining jobs in February or March.

“Our forecast is that the labor market will finally turn the corner,” says Bill Witte, codirector of the Center for Econometric Model Research at Indiana University. “But we’re in a really deep hole, so even though things will start to get better, they’re still going to be pretty bad.”

Salary cuts and salary freezes could come to an end in 2010, according to Athar Siddiqee, strategic client relationship executive at, the Boston-based salary guide publisher, which powers's Salary Wizard. “In the United States, you’re going to see salaries headed slightly up in the 1 percent to 2 percent range or so,” he predicts.

Hiring Outlook

As Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke so aptly put it in a November 2009 speech to the Economic Club of New York: “The best thing we can say about the labor market right now is that it may be getting worse more slowly.”

To create jobs, businesses need two things: capital and confidence. The Obama administration is pushing banks to loan money to businesses, so hopefully, confidence will follow.

“If demand, production and confidence pick up, [businesses] will find their labor forces stretched thin and will begin to add workers,” Bernanke said.

However, before companies create new jobs, they’re most likely to convert part-time workers into full-time workers or ask current employees to work overtime, Bernanke said. “The current prevalence of part-time work and short workweeks may slow job creation early in the recovery period.”

Where Jobs Will Be

If the economy recovers in the second half of 2010, “jobs are not going to come back to the same place and same people that were doing them,” said Alec Levenson, a labor economist and research scientist at the Center for Effective Organizations at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business. He predicts strong job growth in higher education and healthcare.

Witte agreed that healthcare will continue to offer job seekers opportunities in 2010. “The one area that’s been positive through the recession has been healthcare, and that’s going to continue to be the case because of underlying demand from an aging population,” he said. He predicts 2010 unemployment will stay at 2009 levels of 10.2 percent to 10.3 percent.’s data, meanwhile, is showing a lot of one-off hiring, rather than significant hiring in any particular industry. “You’re seeing a lot of buzz about mobile applications for the iPhone and BlackBerry,” Siddiqee says. “People who have that skill set will be in demand, as will people with green environmental knowledge about how to do things with less of a carbon footprint.”

Other areas where Siddiqee says demand for workers, and therefore salaries, have the potential to increase in 2010 include:

Tough Going for Workers in These Fields

The news isn’t good for all engineers, however. Those who work in specialized areas such as computer hardware, materials and manufacturing will continue to be challenged by competition from abroad as well as from productivity gains that allow companies to make the same amount of goods with fewer workers, Witte says.

Demand for workers in other areas, such as biotech and pharmaceuticals will be offset by industry consolidation that eliminates duplicate positions after mergers, according to Siddiqee.

And if you’re in a field where the work is easily outsourced, such as human resources, technical support, low-level engineering or software development, 2010 is likely to be just as tough as 2009, because offshoring will continue, says Siddiqee. Overall, he predicts the unemployment rate will fall slightly, ranging from 9 percent to 9.5 percent in 2010.

College Hiring Outlook Still Dim

Those graduating in 2010 will face a tight job market and competition from last year’s graduates. “Some employers say they have intentions to hire,” says Phil Gardner, research director at Michigan State University’s Collegiate Employment Research Institute. “The problem is it’s not enough to put a big dent in the number of people waiting to get hired from last year.”

Small employers are the most active on campuses right now. Hiring is up for environmental science majors, as well as those roles that support ecommerce or interactive media. Students with quantitative skills who can manage data and information are also in demand, he says.

Joblessness Will End -- Eventually

If you’re part of the large segment of the workforce that wasn’t productively employed in 2009, the experts say you will eventually find work, just maybe not in 2010. “This has not been a careful paring of the workforce,” says Levenson, who’s predicting an overall unemployment rate of 11 percent or higher in 2010. “We have a large number of people who trained for jobs in industries where they had every reason to believe they would have productive employment. When we look back three or four years from now and we’re out of the big hole we’ve dug ourselves into, most of those people are going to be employed.”

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