Employment Outlook: What to Expect in 2011

employment outlookThe job market sank in 2009. In 2010, it started treading water. What can we expect in 2011? Reading the tea leaves of unemployment, jobs and salary trends, I'll try to answer a few top questions about the job market in the coming year, including where and how you can snag a well-paid job.

1. What is the employment outlook like for the immediate future? And for the year?

2010 was a weak year for salaries in the United States: PayScale saw basically no improvement in pay nationally. The fact that pay did not decline (like 2009) is good news, indicating that supply and demand for workers is beginning to equalize. Similarly, the national unemployment numbers indicate that a corner was turned on unemployment in 2010.

If 2011 follows the same pattern as that seen during the recession of the early '90s, unemployment should continue to drop in 2011.

Already in 2010, PayScale saw wages starting to rebound in a few sectors, particularly health care and mining and oil and gas exploration.

Conversely, some professions found wages continued to decline in 2010. Construction was an area that felt the decline, reflected in the very high national unemployment rate for the industry.

The upshot is that 2011 will be better for more people, as they find their skills are once again in demand.

-- Payscale Salary Calculator

2. Do you see a trend of employers making do with the staff they have, meaning they aren't going to hire anytime soon because they've become leaner companies?

Total employment was up less than 1 percent nationally in the last year, yet gross domestic product (GDP), a measure of the total value of goods and services produced, was up over 4 percent. This means companies did more with fewer workers in 2010.

Where this goes in 2011 is an open question; but growing companies have likely already gotten all they can out of their existing work force and will need to look to new hiring to continue to expand.

3. What are the hot jobs or industries right now? Who is hiring and why?

Based on PayScale wage data, oil and gas exploration and mining are rebounding, as is health care. The reasons for this are simple. The price of oil is up, as is the price of commodities like copper, which is back above pre-recession levels. This is driving demand for workers. Similarly, baby boomers aren't getting any younger. Their health care needs mean strong demand for health care workers for the foreseeable future.

Where should job seekers not spend so much time looking for work in 2011? It used to be that having a job with the government during the recession meant you were safe. However, given the budget squeezes at the local, state and federal government levels, a government job will not be a sure thing in 2011.

4. What are some tips for job seekers?

The recovery from this recession will be uneven, both in the cities and states that rebound first, and in the jobs that are in demand. The best advice I have is for people to look outside their comfort zone -- whether in a town, an industry or a particular job -- to find what is out there.

In 2010, a year when employment increased 1 percent, unemployment claims totaled about 17 percent of the total workforce. That means about one in five jobs had a new person doing it in 2010. The trick is to find where those open jobs are in 2011.

Next:Interview with White House About Plans for 2011

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