Companies need workers. But they're not hiring them because of Obamacare and the sequester.
Well some are...but it's complicated.
"So far, this year's off to a nice start," said Michael Werch, communications manager at Indeed.com, a jobs search engine. According to their data, which captures not only job boards but corporate human resource sites, February job postings rose about 5 percent from January.
The health-care industry boasts the most job listings at nearly 640,000 — more than double the postings in retail, which offer the second most job postings. Health care has had the most job listings for years, according to Indeed, given the increasing demand for services and a shortage of registered nurses.
There are signs the labor market, and economy, are picking up more broadly too. "There are also some interesting pockets of data which may be a barometer for the economy as a whole," Werch added. He noted the two largest year-over-year gains were in hospitality job postings, up 18 percent in February, and real estate listings, up 6 percent.
Private employers created nearly 200,000 jobs in February, according to the ADP employment survey, and economists are expecting the February jobs report Friday to show the creation of 160,000 new jobs, with the unemployment rate remain unchanged at 7.9 percent.
Geographically, competition for jobs — as measured by the number of unemployed per job posting — is easiest in San Jose, Calif., Washington, DC, and Oklahoma City, Okla. San Jose continues to benefit from hiring at established tech firms and growth in startups, while Oklahoma City is a beneficiary of the regional energy boom, Werch said. "That supports the rest of the economy, including retail and services," he noted.
But while job postings appear to be picking up, the sequester and Obamacare may be complicating hiring decisions and could keep employers from adding full-time permanent positions.
"We have seen a big spike in the use of temporary staffing but haven't seen a spike of conversions" into permanent hires, said Rob Wilson, president of HR solutions provider Employco. That's a change from the past two years when there was a big increase in the number of temporary workers being converted to full time.
"People feel better about the economy, but not enough to hire full time," said Wilson, whose company tracks temp-to-perm conversions as well as other employment data.
The expenses associated with Obamacare may be one reason small businesses are reluctant to turn temporary workers into full-time permanent employees.
Under Obamacare, "full-time" is defined as averaging 30 hours per week. Those companies with 50 or more workers will need to provide full-time workers with health insurance or pay a fine.
To further complicate hiring decisions, the look-back period is underway for many employers. Companies have a period of between three and 12 months to calculate the average number of hours an employee works. Employers will have to provide health insurance to those workers that qualify as "full time" over the look-back period for the next six months, undermining attempts to cut hours to avoid the mandate.
Indeed, the Federal Reserve's "beige book" suggested that employers are increasingly worried about the expenses associated with the new health-care law. "Employers in several (Fed) districts cited the unknown effects of the Affordable Care Act as reasons for planned layoffs and reluctance to hire more staff," according to the report.
(Read More: Obamacare Drags Down Jobs and Sales Says Beige Book)
Financial Services Layoffs
While there are signs of an improved labor market, employers are still laying off employees — particularly in the financial services sector.
Planned job cuts increased for the second consecutive month in February as employers announced 55,356 layoffs, up 37 percent from 40,430 in January, according to a report from global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
The financial sector accounted for nearly 40 percent of the planned layoffs due largely to the 19,000 announced job cuts at JPMorgan Chase, the report said. But according to Indeed data, financial companies did post 187,000 jobs in February — 3 percent more jobs than in January.
"Ideally, you want an improving economy to lead to job creation, but it is not unusual to see employers make reductions in some areas while simultaneously adding in others as changing economic conditions require them to shuffle workforce priorities," said John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, in a press release.
And more layoffs could be coming as the sequester forces job reductions in the aerospace and defense, education, technology, construction and transportation industries, said Challenger.
While employers have now announced 95,786 job cuts so far in 2013, it's still 9 percent fewer than the 105,214 job cuts through the first two months of 2012.