Employment News Brief - January 6

  • workforce insights
  • January 03, 2012

A very happy New Year to all of you as we enter into what will be a very interesting year with the upcoming election campaign, and what continues to be one of the hottest agenda items - job creation. The 2011 economy closed on a high note, adding 200,000 nonfarm payroll jobs and an unemployment rate of 8.5 percent in December. Private-sector employment added 212,000 in December and rose by 1.9 million over 2011. Retail trade continued to increase, adding 28,000 jobs in December and gained 240,000 over the past 12 months. Professional and business services remained relatively flat this month. The sector added 42,000 jobs per month on average for the first 10 months of the year. Despite a decline of 7,500 jobs this month, the temporary help services sector has added more than 160,000 jobs in 2011.

As we all know, 2011 had a mix of positive and negative news and indicators which created some challenges in improving the economic situation. As a result, the year was characterized by ebbs and flows in both consumer and business confidence levels. Our own Employee Confidence Index, which measures confidence in employment situation and optimism in the economy, experienced a 2011 confidence high point in May at 53.9, while just three months later hit its lowest point in 2011 at 41.0.

When it comes to worker sentiment in the coming year, our own Employee Attachment Index finds workers will continue to have mixed emotions about economic optimism and personal employment. The index, which measures how attached employees are to their employers based on engagement and retention levels, reports 47 percent of workers optimistic and three-fourths believe their companies have great futures. Yet, a full 20 percent predict they will lose their job in 2012.

More mixed news came out of key sectors this year, with government agencies down by more than 280,000 jobs in 2011, and employment in both state and local government trending down since second half of 2008. However, private sector jobs were up overall in 2011, and increasing by an average of 131,000 jobs per month. And, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the sector has now recovered 33 percent of jobs lost during the period of January 2008 to February 2010.

Within private jobs, professional and business services led the movement, as demand for jobs in this sector increased throughout the year. Engineering, IT, and healthcare (which created around 20 percent of all new jobs in 2011), continue to be high-growth industries with low unemployment rates. Another high performance sector this year, and for the past three years, is temporary help services. According to the BLS, the industry saw an uptick in the second half of 2011, averaging 20,000 jobs per month from July to November compared to 5,000 in January through June.

As we move into the New Year, it is important to note that the economy did not get to where it is at overnight. Although it will take time to create the volume of jobs needed to significantly drive down unemployment, we do believe the nation will be closer to that point in 2012. However, according to economists, the economy will remain vulnerable to potential setbacks due to reports around the global economy potentially entering a recession. We are all hopeful to see steady and broad job growth and putting Americans back to work. I wish you a wonderful and prosperous start to 2012!

national employment trends

  • Non-farm payroll added 200,000 jobs in December
  • Private-sector payroll rose +212,000 in December
  • Healthcare: +23,000; Retail: +28,000; Professional and Business Services: +12,000
  • Government: -12,000 jobs; Federal: +2,000; State: no change; Local: -14,000

  • Engineering, IT, Healthcare and Finance/Accounting continue to be high-growth industries in 2012
  • Healthcare sector created 20 percent of all new jobs in 2011 and has 5.5 percent unemployment rate
  • Engineering jobs, such as biomedical and environmental engineers, are expected to have 21+ percent employment growth through 2016, much faster than the average for all occupations
  • Both Information Technology and Finance/Accounting boast low unemployment rates, with 7.7 and 5.6 percent, respectively

Randstad employment trends & research


  • Index slightly decreased by 0.6 points to 47.4 in December
  • Employee confidence levels in 2011 remained near 50.0, reflecting positive confidence
  • The 2011 Index has a confidence high-point of 53.9 in May
  • The 2011 Index hit its lowest point in August at 41.0
  • Nearly half (47 percent) of employees report being optimistic about 2012
  • Approximately three-fourths of workers believe their companies have great futures
  • Twenty percent predict they will lose their job in 2012
  • About half (48 percent) of employees predict their benefits will be reduced in 2012