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Professional workforce numbers offer 'tale of two job markets'

By , - Last modified: November 9, 2012 at 9:36 AM

A report on the professional workforce from staffing and human resources company Robert Half International Inc. offers a glimpse into careers where there is demand for workers and evidence of an improving economy yet, like manufacturing, companies are finding it hard to fill those positions.

California-based Robert Half's report, "The Demand for Skilled Talent: A Tale of Two Job Markets," presents further evidence that it's not just industries in flux that have a need for skilled workers.

"The persistent drumbeat about high unemployment does not apply to many of the professional-level jobs employers are trying to fill," the report says. "The candidates they seek often already have secure jobs or are weighing multiple employment offers. As a result, firms must offer competitive salaries and move quickly to recruit top talent."

Some key statistics in the report include:

• There were 3.6 million job openings in professional sectors in August, up 50 percent since June 2009.

• Jobs are open for longer periods of time; 40 percent of firms planning to hire have had openings for six months or more before finding the ideal candidate.

• Job seekers are more optimistic; 2.1 million professionals voluntarily left their jobs in August, a 17 percent increase from two years ago.

• Companies have positions, but 64 percent of them cannot find qualified applicants.

Most professional positions have lower unemployment rates than the national and state averages, too, according to the report. For example, network and computer systems administrators have an unemployment rate of just 1.7 percent, while Web developers have unemployment rates of 4.3 percent. Chief executives have an unemployment rate of 1.8 percent, and bookkeeping, accounting and auditing professionals have a 5.9 percent unemployment rate.

The national unemployment rate is 7.9 percent, and Pennsylvania's is 8.2 percent.

"Quite frankly, I think we're talking about a supply and demand issue with these positions," said Jeanie Sharp, Robert Half's regional vice president for the Mid-Atlantic region, which includes 10 offices in Pennsylvania.

The good news is that some of the workforce gridlock for professional positions is loosening, which means companies are doing better, she said. That could bode well for the rest of the workforce that fits into the larger segment of unemployed depending on what industries the companies fit into, she said.

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