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11 Signs the Job Market Is Improving in 2011

Friday, 7 Jan 2011 | 3:36 PM ET

The December jobs report may have disappointed some but as the economy revs back to life, there are signs of improvement in the job market.

“In 2010, we saw steady, gradual increases in jobs across all sectors,” said Matt Ferguson, CEO of CareerBuilder.com. “2011 will be a better year for jobs.”

"It feels like a light switch is about to go on," Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Economy.com, told CNBC’s Patti Domm. "All the preconditions for much better jobs growth are in place.”

Here are 11 signs that the job market is improving in 2011.

1. Revisions are positive. In its monthly jobs report, the Labor Department always issues a revision for the prior two months. When things are really bad, the revisions usually show that things were, in fact, worse than we had previously thought. In the latest report, October and November were revised to show that 70,000 more job were added than previously reported. “These are significant and they suggest that the economy is building momentum,” said economist Robert Brusca.

2. Economists are feeling that tingle. And it’s not just Zandi. "I certainly think things have turned and we're in the process of seeing a sustained and significant improvement,” Stephen Stanley, chief economist at Pierpont Securities, told CNBC. And Joel Naroff said he sees monthly job gains at a solid 200,000 rate by summer.

3. History. “If history is a guide, this is about the time in the last two business cycles that businesses started to step up and hire," Zandi said.

4. ADP is wrong AGAIN. Payroll firm ADP psyched out economists once again, convincing them to revise their forecasts for job gains upward after reporting in their monthly survey that the private sector added 297,000 jobsin December. Once again, the official government report came in well short of that. At first glance, that may seem like a negative, but ADP has been wrong so many times, statistically, they're due for a win any day now.

5. That holiday (shopping) spirit. The unemployment rate dropped, which some economists say was a negative sign because much of it was discouraged workers dropping out of the labor force. But if you look at the retail numbers, you’ll see what people were doing in December: Shopping! Consumers have finally gotten their confidence back, making 2010 the best holiday-shopping season for retailers in years. And when you have consumer confidence, corporate confidence — and hiring — aren’t far behind.

6. Job listings are up. The number of job listings on Indeed.com jumped 88 percentlast year, following a 13-percent decline in 2009. What’s more, manufacturing listings jumped 90 percent and transportation listings rocketed 147 percent. If manufacturers are ramping up production and the transportation industry is shipping more stuff — two industries that tend to forecast broader growth, because they're laying the groundwork for increased demand — broader hiring will likely follow.

7. Hiring for people to do more hiring. The number of job listings for recruiters, the people who do the hiring, is up 20 percent in the past six months, according to Indeed.com. Hiring is one thing, but hiring more people to do the hiring is a great sign that companies plan to do more — say it with me — hiring!

8. Small business optimism. Small-business owner sentiment finally turned higher in November after dropping over the summer, according to a survey by Wells Fargo and Gallup. It was the most positive reading since April 2009. Gallup chief economist Dennis Jacobe cited several reasons for the rebound, including the Fed’s stimulus efforts and an improvement in consumer confidence. Plus, credit has started to flow again.

9. Corporate profits. More than half of employers recently surveyed by CareerBuilder said they were in a better financial position today than they were a year ago, and Goldman Sachs expects “rapid corporate profit gains in 2011 and 2012.” Specifically, 20%-25% growth in 2011 and 15%-20% in 2012. Companies are building up cash piles, margins are improving and demand is picking up, which means companies are going to have to stop sitting on their hands and start hiring soon.

10. Moonlighting is on the decline. And no, we’re not talking about Bruce Willis, we’re talking about people getting second jobs to pay the bills. Twelve percent of respondents said they plan to take on a second jobin 2011, down from 19 percent last year, according to a recent CareerBuilder survey.

11. A mad scramble to hire the homeless guy. Ted Williams, the homeless guy with the “golden voice” whose YouTube video has now been viewed by more than 11 million people, set off a hiring frenzyafter the video went viral. Everyone wanted a piece of him, from the Cleveland Cavaliers to Quicken Loans and MTV . (The Cavs ultimately won, offering him a job AND a house.) “When you know something's right, you just have to launch," the senior VP of marketing for the Cavs was quoted as saying, a day before it was discovered that he had a 20-year criminal past. Well said. And when there’s a rush to hire the homeless guy, you know the job market is looking up!

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Contact Pony Blog

  • Cindy Perman is a writer at CNBC.com, covering jobs, real estate, retirement and personal finance.

  • Based in Los Angeles, Jane Wells is a CNBC business news reporter and also writes the Funny Business blog for CNBC.com.

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