5 Positive Takeaways From Recent Employment Reports

Recent employment reports from the U.S. Department of Labor paint an improving picture of the jobs outlook. While there are still soft spots and areas of the market remain competitive, there is good news, including for accounting and finance professionals.

Here are five positive trends identified in the recent news:

1. The unemployment rate fell – in a good way.

There are times when the unemployment rate drops because people are so discouraged they stop looking for a new job – but that wasn’t the case this time. According to CNNMoney’s Chris Isidore, the November data was “an example of unemployment falling for the right reason, more people finding jobs, rather than the wrong reasons, discouraged job seekers giving up their search and no longer being counted as unemployed.”

2. Accounting and finance unemployment rates often are lower than the national average.

Previous research shows even more good news for accounting and finance professionals. Here is a sampling of the third-quarter unemployment rates, published by the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics:

  • Chief executives (includes CFOs): 1.8 percent
  • Financial analysts: 2.5 percent
  • Financial managers: 2.6 percent
  • Accountants and auditors: 3.2 percent
  • Bookkeeping, accounting and auditing clerks: 3.3 percent

3. There is momentum.

As Isidore noted, 2013 will be the third consecutive year the United States added 2 million jobs. “Even if there’s a far more modest December gain,” he wrote, “2013 is likely to be the best year for hiring since the 2.5-million gain in 2005.”

4. Job openings are up.

One statistic that supports this momentum is the increase in job openings. Research from the Labor Department’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary (JOLTS) found the volume of job openings is as high as it has been since May 2008. Still, many employers, including small businesses, are experiencing challenges finding candidates with the skills they seek, making those openings tougher to fill.

5. Layoffs are down.

Layoffs and discharges fell to their lowest level on record, according to the JOLTS report, which began tracking them in December 2000. This comes on the heels of a Department of Labor report showing the four-week moving average of initial jobless claims for the week ending Nov. 30 fell approximately 20 percent compared to the prior year.

There is still room for improvement in the job market, with unemployment remaining high and some sectors, such as government, struggling to recover. However, recent news, including research showing salaries are expected to increase, also provides room for optimism.

For more insights on hiring and salary trends in accounting and finance, please see the 2014 Salary Guide from Robert Half.

Are there other hopeful signs we're missing? Please weigh in with your comments below.