It has been said repeatedly that the current economic recovery is missing one thing: jobs. Well, a report out Friday show that there is evidence -- although somewhat muted -- that the missing link has been found.
The Labor Department reported that U.S. payrolls rose by 162,000 in March, only the third increase in the past 27 months. Of that amount, 48,000 were jobs at the Census Bureau, temporary workers that could be back on the unemployment line in a few months.
The unemployment rate held steady at 9.7 percent in March.
"The recovery in the job market will take some time as employers face new market realities and gauge demand, but we expect to see gradual improvement throughout the year," said Matt Ferguson, CEO of CareerBuilder.
A report by the employment counseling service found that 23 percent of employers stated that they increased their full-time, permanent staff in the first quarter of 2010. That is an increase from 13 percent in the same period a year ago.
"The rise in online job listings and resurgence in temporary hiring are good leading indicators for stability in the market and creation of more permanent jobs down the road," said Ferguson.
That opinion was echoed by the Monster Employment Index, which tracks employer job opportunities that are posted on job boards and corporate Web sites. The index is 6 percent above where it was a year ago.
"We're encouraged by the positive uptick in the index in the past two months. While the labor market continues to be challenging for those looking for work, we are encouraged to see early signs of what may be a return to consistent job growth," said Monster's Jesse Harriott.
Add to those opinions the latest report from Carlsbad-based CareerCast.com, which tracks management recruitment activity online. Its most recent Employment Index rose in February for the second consecutive month.
"Hiring of management-level executives usually reflects a longer-term view and means businesses are thinking more positively about the future. Now that management recruitment activity overall is on the rise, the rest of the job market should follow," said Tony Lee of CareerCast.com.
But, not everyone is enthusiastic about the jobs situation. Even with a significant increase in the Consumer Confidence Index from the Conference Board in March, there is still a lot of uncertainty among the estimated 15 million people who are without work.
"Despite this month's increase, consumers continue to express concern about current business and labor market conditions. And, their outlook for the next six months is still rather pessimistic. Overall, consumer confidence levels have not changed significantly since last spring," said Lynn Franco, director of the Consumer Research Center at the Conference Board.
Locally, the recent 2010 economic forecast from the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce calls for the San Diego County unemployment rate to gradually decline throughout the year to 9.5 percent. That is well below the rate of 11.1 percent in January and 10.6 percent in February.
A continuing decline in the number of people locally who are filing for unemployment benefits were a contributing factor in the increase of the Index of Leading Economic Indicators calculated by Professor Alan Gin at the University of San Diego. The index has now increased for 11 consecutive months, a positive sign for economy recovery throughout 2010.
However, Gin says that does not paint a complete picture for the job market.
"Unfortunately, something that is not measured in the index is that filings for extended unemployment benefits through various federal programs remains very strong as people have been unemployed for much longer periods than in the past," said Gin.
As in previous cycles, federal dollars are being allocated to help workers who need training to advance their careers or find opportunities in other industries.
Eight career centers in San Diego County will participate in nearly $4 billion in funds authorized through the Workforce Investment Act to help Americans get back to work.
"These funds, and the employment and training services that they support, are a cornerstone of our national effort to prepare America's workers for good jobs, the kind that spur the economy. As they seek out careers in promising local industries, workers need access to high quality training and employment services," said Hilda Solis, secretary of labor.