It’s Tough All Over for Employment Prospects

By Staff Report

Jan. 8, 2009

The number of jobs posted online is shrinking, the market for temporary jobs even more uncertain, and services are sliding.

Welcome to 2009.

The number of U.S. jobs posted online dropped by 507,000 in December, to 3.9 million, according to the Conference Board’s measure of online help-wanted ads released Wednesday, January 7. This is the first time since the summer of 2006 that the measure has fallen below 4 million.

“The sharp December drop in online advertised vacancies is another indication that the economy has not reached bottom,” said Gad Levanon, senior economist at the Conference Board. “The widespread nature of the decline in employers’ demand for workers—both across geographies and across occupations—does not bode well for an employment upturn in the first half of 2009.”

The American Staffing Association’s index measuring temporary employment fell to a reading of 81 in the week of December 15-21 from 90 in the week of November 10-16. The drop in the index indicates a decline in temporary staffing. The index was at 87 in the third week of December 2007.

“The increase in demand for temporary and contract employees that typically occurs throughout the calendar year has not been seen in 2008; however, a decline is typical the third week in December,” according to the ASA.

The index measures changes in the number of temporary and contract employees weekly and monthly. The index’s baseline value of 100 was set in June 2006.

Economic activity in the U.S. service sector declined in December compared with November, but the rate of decline slowed, the Institute for Supply Management also reported Wednesday. Its nonmanufacturing index rose to a reading of 40.6 in December from 37.3 in November. The nonmanufacturing index was expected to slip further, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Index readings above 50 indicate expansion.

Employment in the service sector also contracted in December, but at a slower rate than in November, according to the institute’s nonmanufacturing employment index, which is used to make up the larger nonmanufacturing index. The employment index rose to 34.7 in December from 31.3 in November.

—Reports compiled by Staffing Industry Analysts, a sister company of Workforce Management. To comment, e-mail

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