Is it even conceivable that 2010 could be worse than 2009? From a hiring and career perspective, it's hard to imagine.
Just to recap on the annus horribilis that we're leaving behind, unemployment grew from 7.2 percent in January 2009 to a high of 10.2 percent in October.
According to the BLS , there are now 15.7 million unemployed people in the U.S.—a figure that has risen by 8.2 million since the recession began in December 2007.
So does 2010 have more of the same in store, or is it likely to be a better year for those in the job market? Here at Vault, we've come up with some job market predictions for three key groups over the first year of the new decade.
1. Job seekers.
The good news for anyone seeking work right now is that 2010 is likely to bring a slight decrease in the unemployment rate—a fact that means companies will be hiring throughout the year.
The bad news? Competition for those positions will be hotter than ever before, and candidates will really have to go the extra mile—and likely accept more modest compensation packages to land a job. And we're not going to see the unemployment rate subsiding at anywhere near the same clip as it grew: anything less than 9 percent by the end of 2010 will be a serious achievement.
With that in mind, focusing a job search on growing fields will be more important than ever. Those looking for work would do well to seek out opportunities in energy, the environmental, health care and government. Those with experience under their belt may also want to consider finding similar roles in adjacent sectors, or acquiring extra skills to make themselves more marketable in other areas.
"At a certain point, people will start to collapse at work." So said an economic expert recently on the spike in productivity we've witnessed from those who still have jobs. As the quote makes clear, however, there comes a time when existing employees simply can't do any more to take a business forward, and that spells both problems and opportunities over the coming year for managers.
By now, the toughest decisions should hopefully be behind most corporate leaders; if you haven't finished cutting the fat from your organization at this point in the economic cycle, the chances are it's too late.
As the economy starts to gain ground once again, the uptick in work will naturally require leaders to go out and find some assistance. Savvy execs, then, should be leveraging every contact they have to find the best candidates out there—and they are out there, in unprecedented numbers.
After two fallow years in which no one has been hiring, there is a talent pool that is simply overflowing with candidates, many of whom are now available for positions they'd never have considered in better times. Of course, while that means some firms can pull in stronger talent than they might ordinarily be able to, retention will likely become an issue down the line. That's unlikely to be the case in 2010, however, so just enjoy the fun of hiring in an employer's market while it lasts.
3. Recent graduates.
The class of 2010 has a long road ahead of them. Fewer employers are coming to campus to recruit soon-to-be graduates—at law schools, for example, the number of recruiters dropped significantly for 2009-2010 (as much as 50 percent at some schools in the top 14)—so students will have to work extra hard to find a job after graduation.
Luckily, unlike mid-career job seekers, these graduates have the full force of their schools behind them. In the past year, career services across the country have reached out to new employers to find open positions, created new training programs for students to learn about alternative careers and offered fellowships to students to conduct research, pursue volunteer work or accept an unpaid or low-paid position.
Careers in the nonprofit, technology and government sectors are the most popular, across all degrees. Among future lawyers, online applications for federal clerkships increased by 66 percent this year. However, even though there are jobs available in those sectors, employers may not be equipped to handle the surge in applications. This means employment for the class of 2010 is likely to be only slightly higher than the class of 2009's, if it improves at all.
The best bet for the class of 2010 may be to get the heck out of Dodge. Students who are willing to work overseas have a better chance of scoring a job than those who limit their job search to their hometown. To help students compete in an international market, MBA programs have beefed up their global business curricula and created partnerships with business schools in Europe and Asia. That said, with the number of international business students staying abroad, it's likely that these jobs will get more competitive in 2010. So students interested in exploring this option should start working on their resumes.