When data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed a dramatic drop in the number of job openings in April, it was easy to jump to the most disastrous conclusions possible about the U.S. jobs market and the U.S. economy. But just because "short-term" and "extreme" are the filters through which the investment and journalism communities process news and numbers, it doesn't mean that the conclusions they draw are completely "true."
Besides the April Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers, several other studies and reports tell a bigger and more positive story about the summer job market, particularly in the U.S. retail industry.
- Sixty-three of the largest U.S. cities added a total of 174,000 retail jobs between April 2011 and April 2012 , according to a long-term analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistic numbers. The cities with retail job gains outpaced the total net loss of 43,100 jobs in other major U.S. cities.
- The increase in the hiring of teens age 16 to 19 in May was the biggest increase in that age group since 1999. Because the overall unemployment rate has fallen since last summer, teens aren't competing with as many unemployed adults for entry level jobs, which are largely found in the retail industry.
- CareerBuilder's annual Sumer Job Forecast survey found that 29% of U.S. employers planned to hire summer workers in 2012, which is 8% higher than the summer of 2011. More significantly, 71% of the employers surveyed said they're likely to convert temporary hires this summer into permanent employees when the summer ends.
- The U.S. restaurant industry in particular is planning to hire 450,000 employees this summer, according to a report from the National Restaurant Association. If this projection becomes reality, it will be the largest summer hiring season for restaurants since 1999.
- For job seekers who haven't landed a retail job yet, there's still hope because the CareerBuilders survey revealed that 19% of employers plan to continue hiring summer employees through June.
- Even though it is estimated that only 50% of 2012 college grads will immediately get hired for jobs in their chosen field, the ideal companies that grads want to work for have been clearly identified, and job hunting efforts are being directed there.
So, taking all reports and studies into account, "tough but not impossible" is the job market big picture story.
For the recent college graduates who are looking for a job that will utilize their new degree, it will be important to demonstrate the qualities that are getting 50% of their competitors hired. Strong communication skills, a positive attitude, teamwork skills, and work experience that proves they possess those qualities give degreed job seekers the competitive edge, according to research conducted by consulting firm Millennial Branding.
The good news for grads who lack work experience that will impress hiring managers, is that the work experience they lack can be obtained from a summer job, even if that job is not related to their chosen field. According to successful professionals in a wide variety of professions, the value of working retail and restaurant jobs lies in the experience gained with the same things that recruiters say they want - communication skills, teamwork, and a positive attitude.
Today's U.S. retail job market could be better, but it has definitely been worse. Those who are actively seeking employment can choose to focus on the better aspects, or they can pay attention to the analysts and headline writers who tend to focus on the worst parts. The important thing for job seekers to remember when they are choosing what to focus on is that you tend to find evidence to support your conclusions.