WASHINGTON — The U.S. economy had a net gain of 163,000 jobs in July - better than the previous month - but at the same time the unemployment rate edged up slightly, to 8.3 percent. While efforts to improve unemployment seem stalled, experts from firms that connect companies with job seekers say big companies are looking for highly educated workers to fill key positions.
Millions of jobs were lost during the worst recession in decades, and 12.8 million Americans remain out of work.
When the economy slowed, demand dropped. Many companies slashed their work forces and have been slow to replace the people who were laid off.
US Unemployment data - 2009 - 2012
Skilled workers sought as demand increases
Some experts in job networking and placement businesses say that is changing, though, as firms now are seeking key, top-level employees to meet growing demand for products.
The MRINetwork surveyed a couple of hundred recruiters who say they are filling some jobs in sales, information technology and accounting.
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"Companies are so thin [under staffed] today, they just can't do it. They have to replace people [who leave]," said Dave Campeas, who heads an MRINetwork office in New Jersey.
As the economy recovers, Rich Milgram, CEO of the career network called "Beyond-dot-com," said sales positions are the first to get filled, and then hiring goes from there.
"In large corporate [corporations], it's really happening now. It's gone from sales, to customer service, and then into the more technical and larger-scale departments," he said.
High hopes for ripple effect
Milgram said once companies start selling products, they need to hire people to provide customer service. Then they gradually add information technology specialists to help with product development, and financial people to support the rest of the company's work.
Milgram said he is optimistic the economy will recover and hiring will get stronger over the next year. While many people in Washington are worried that political gridlock in Congress could hurt the economy, Milgram said many companies are looking past the bickering and hoping to expand their businesses.
Campeas said it may take quite a while, however, before the hiring of top talent will lead to the creation of more jobs for less skilled workers, a much larger group.