Bad News/Good News: Fewer job vacancies but decline is moderating
Online advertised vacancies dropped 131,000 to 3,117,000 in April, says The Conference Board Help-Wanted Online Data Series (HWOL). In total, advertised vacancies are down 1,321,000, or 30%, in the last six months. “Based on the April numbers, we are not out of the woods, but the decline in labor demand is moderating,” said Gad Levanon, senior economist at The Conference Board. “April and May are both months where business typically steps up their demand for workers. This year, that bounce may be more evident next month.”

Nevertheless, there are some brighter areas in the Northeast and South including New Jersey, New York, Virginia, and North Carolina, where the number of advertised vacancies was up in April. But the most populous states in the Midwest and West continued to post decreases. Job demand is hard hit in areas that include architecture and engineering; production; transportation and material moving; and computer and mathematical jobs. Demand for computer and mathematical positions dropped 194,600 to 394,100, 33% below April 2008 levels. Architecture and engineering was down by 87,800 positions.

A “don’t-care” attitude has its advantages
Most employers prize their engaged workers, those willing to go the extra mile to get work done. But engaged employees are more likely than others to become frustrated and dissatisfied and may blame their supervisors if they hit organizational roadblocks. This frustration could lead to turnover as they begin to look for more-supportive work environments.

So says Thomas Britt, an industrial-organizational psychology professor at Clemson University. “The ones who stay behind may well be the ones who just don’t care,” says Britt.

Barriers to engaged workers’ peak performance may include the lack of the right equipment, or no money; being kept in the dark about objectives and goals, work overload, and being assigned tasks that don’t fit their training.

These are critical times for managers, says Britt. Managers must balance a high sense of urgency to trim costs with the need to motivate and keep their employees engaged in their work. This becomes more important when workforces are reduced and employees are asked to boost their work output, especially work that reaches beyond the scope of their jobs and their capabilities.

Another limit to engaged employees is work overload, which can lead to lower levels of morale and job satisfaction, In other words, says Britt, the workers who care most about their work feel they are not performing to their full capability because they have so much to do that they cannot do anything well.

College grad hiring down but engineering positions down less
Employers will hire 22% fewer college graduates nationwide this year, says a survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). However, the top 10 bachelor’s degrees in demand, according to the NACE 2008 Job Outlook, include mechanical and electrical engineering. And some areas are seeing less of a downturn than others. At the University of Utah, for example, officials say employers are still hiring. One reason is that Utah’s 5.2% unemployment rate is well below the national average of 8.5% according to Utah’s Dept. of Workforce Services.