“Increased hiring of senior-level talent in these sectors is promising for the general economy,” says Romaine. “It indicates a confidence and a willingness by employers to invest in talent across broad swaths of the economy despite headwinds that still persist.”
But just as employers seem to be ramping up their hunt for senior talent, the availability of such talent may be shrinking as well. Over the last six months, employers have continued to increase their use of counter-offers, hoping to retain top talent long enough to backfill their positions. In highly technical fields, such as chemical engineering or biotechnology, employers have been forced to sweeten counter-offers because there simply aren’t as many candidates as there are job openings.
Indeed, the unemployment rate for those with a bachelor’s degree or higher—perhaps the broadest definition of the skilled, professional workforce—fell in December to 4.1 percent, its lowest rate in nearly three years.
“A full-blown, double-dip recession in Europe could have a chilling effect on hiring in America. But, until it does impact the U.S. directly, businesses are beginning to return to more normal hiring patterns,” notes Romaine. “Companies are backfilling vacancies and investing in new positions. We are in the midst of the slow, but seemingly stable, rebound that had been projected.”
Over the past several months, private employment in the U.S. has begun to rebound in an increasingly strong way. Through all of 2011, the private sector averaged 160,000 new positions per month, exceeding the monthly rates of population growth (about 140,000) and labor force growth (only about 20,000).