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10 Signs That the Job Market Is Improving

Job growth hasn’t been as robust as many were hoping for (I’m looking at you, March jobs report ) and projections are that it will take at least until 2014 to regain the millions of jobs lost during the recession — even longer, if the March pace turns out to be a trend and not an anomaly. I saw one projection of 2020 that nearly made me swallow my tongue.

But this is America, where anything is possible — our glass can be half full if we want it to!

OK, it’s not just that the smell of fresh-cut grass lends a feeling of optimism in the air — there are some hard stats to back up that positive thinking.

“I think people no longer have to whisper about the recovery, they can actually say it out loud in conversation,” quipped Katy Bardaro, the lead economist at PayScale .

So shake off that March jobs report. Put on something pretty. Here are 10 signs that the job market is improving:

10. Jobs have been added to the economy for 18 straight months , according to the Labor Department, after more than two years of job losses.

9. Planned layoffs hit a 10-month low in March, down 27 percent from February and 8.8 percent from a year ago, according to the latest report from consultants Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

8. The number of job openings jumped 16 percent in February from a year ago, according to the Labor Department’s latest JOLT survey (Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey).

7. Hiring plans rose nearly 16 percent to 12,390 in March from the prior month, according to the Challenger report.

6. The ratio of job openings to the number of unemployed people in a particular city is improving: In March, 11 out of 50 cities on Indeed.com’s Job Market Competition list have a one-to-one ratio, that’s up from just four cities that had those ratios a year ago. (The national average is 3.7 people for each available job, according to the Labor Department.)

5. The hospitality industry (hotel workers, restaurant workers, bartenders, housekeepers, etc.), which took a hit during the recession as many people cut back on going out to eat and travel, saw a 48-percent jump in job listings in March from a year ago, according to Indeed.com.

4. Jobless claims fell to a seasonally adjusted 357,000 last week, the lowest since April 2008.

3. National wage growth is also back to pre-recession levels: It jumped 1.4 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier, according to PayScale, and is now at its highest level since the fourth quarter of 2008.

2. There is still a shortage of skilled workers in information technology and health care, industries that thrived through the recession and, in fact, that shortage continues to grow. “The shortages are getting more acute!” said Tony Lee, publisher of CareerCast’s 2012 Jobs Rated Report .

And the No. 1 positive sign for the job market is … “I QUIT!!!”

The number of people who voluntarily quit their jobs jumped 4 percent, according to the Labor Department's JOLT survey. What’s more, for the first time, the number of quits represented a greater percentage of total separations than involuntary layoffs.

“Quits go hand-in-hand with consumer confidence,” market strategists from ConvergEx Group reported in a recent note titled “’I Quit!’ And Other Positive Economic Data.’”

This came after a September survey by job web site Snagajob that found 22 percent of Americans changed jobs in the previous 12 months and 44 percent said it was their choice . That was up from 31 percent in the previous year.

“The fact that more workers are looking for — and finding — new positions proactively shows that some employers are indeed hiring aggressively and that opportunity is available for attractive candidates,” said Shawn Boyer, the CEO of Snagajob.

If you’re not ready to march into the boss’s office and say, “I QUIT!” Don’t worry. This recession hit all of us pretty hard. A lot of people are still in the fantasizing stage with quitting. But who’s to say you can’t practice?

When you wake up tomorrow, take a good look in the mirror and say: “See ya! Sayonara! Later ‘gator! Buh-bye! I quiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit!”

I don't know about you, but I feel better!

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs:

Cindy Perman
Cindy PermanCNBC.com Commentary Editor
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