Job seekers pin hopes on 2011 looking up

December 30, 2010 7:14:20 PM PST
There is a glimmer of hope that the New Year will bring signs of an improving jobs picture. The U.S. Department of Labor said on Thursday the number of first time unemployment applications fell below 400,000 last week to the lowest number in more than two years. It is an important milestone in the economic recovery.

Amber Cowan who is unemployed and Stephen Levy who is a nationally recognized economist have something in common -- optimism. Even though national unemployment remains at a frustrating 9.8 percent, there's a positive shift in the labor market.

"I got three great job leads actually by networking with somebody, they ended up liking me, and saying, 'Hey, you know, I think my company might be hiring,'" says Cowan.

Many economists have been waiting for months for new jobless claims to fall below 400,000, so the fact that they came in at 388,000 is like an end of the year bonus.

The director of the Center For Continuing Study of the California Economy, Stephen Levy, says it's one more sign a sluggish economy is turning the corner.

"Exports and foreign trade are near pre-recession levels, the tech firms are obviously selling stuff off the shelf, it's been a banner year for new products," says Levy.

The Labor Department reports California is specifically benefiting from fewer layoffs than expected in the agriculture industry. Last week the state reported a drop in new unemployment claims of more than 7,000.

Managers at job placement agency Manpower say the activity goes beyond seasonal hiring and predicts growth early next year.

"Construction should pick up a little bit in 2011, manufacturing of both durable and non durable goods should increase. Also we're going to see an increase, I think, in information technology," says Thomas Baity, a Manpower branch manager.

Baity says more companies have budgeted for hiring in the first quarter of 2011 and that should offer relief for the unemployed.

"I actually have a job promised to me from one of my former company's competitors in February," says Frank Colli.

Whether you are one of the recession's statistics or just following the slow recovery with a watchful eye, there seems to be a collective sigh of relief.

"You're feeling people kind of going, 'Ooh, alright...2011. I can do 2011,'" says Cowan.


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