Signs on Wall Street Point to Job Growth Ahead

U.S. Job Growth: Hiring Surge Predicted for 2011
U.S. Job Growth: Hiring Surge Predicted for 2011

Many Wall Street pundits have come out with surprisingly bullish takes on the U.S. economy for the year ahead, but high unemployment continues to ravage Main Street. Still, with corporate profits booming and the stock market rallying, signs are piling up that employment may finally be poised for a comeback, too.

Internet job listings surged to 4.7 million as of Dec. 1, compared to 2.7 million from the same period a year ago, according to a recent report in The Wall Street Journal. Many of the new jobs are in the retailing, accounting, consulting health care, telecommunications and defense-related industries, according to data from job search website

Farming, manufacturing and construction jobs are underrepresented in the survey, which may place a heavier emphasis on computer-based jobs, an expert told The Journal. But signs of job growth are broad based.

The employment index in the Texas Manufacturing Outlook survey, which was released Monday by the Dallas Federal Reserve, surged to 15 in December from 6 in November, its highest level since early 2007. "Labor market indicators improved notably this month," according to the survey. While 24% of firms reported hiring new workers, only 9% reported layoffs. Hours worked also increased, and an index of wages and benefits doubled from 5 to 10.

Putting Massive Profits to Good Use?

Revenue at staffing companies like Robert Half (RHI), SFN Group (SFN) and Kforce (KFRC) surged during the third quarter, Bloomberg notes. Stocks in the Standard & Poor's Supercomposite Human Resources and Employment Service Index have racked up gains of almost 50% since the summer, far ahead of the roughly 20% delivered by the overall index.

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Massive corporate profits could finally be fueling a surge in hiring. At $1.64 trillion in the third quarter, U.S. corporate profits are just $20 billion shy of the record $1.66 trillion posted during the third quarter of 2006, investment bank Deutsche Bank (DB)estimated based on tax receipts.

Investors should note the rallying stock market: A growing crowd on Wall Street is predicting further stock-price rises in the year ahead, which could provide further fuel for job growth.

Along with the direct "wealth effect" of rising portfolios, the stock market may serve as a gauge of overall confidence for businesses. Strong job growth followed a sustained stock market rally last spring, for example. But job-creation stalled as the European debt crisis hit markets over the summer. Likewise, job growth came in well below estimates in November after more market jitters that month.

If the market steadies in the year ahead as expected, Corporate America may finally be ready to hire in large numbers again.

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