As part of my duties on the local Regional Employment Board, I probably pay an inordinate amount of attention to the labor market.

This graph struck me:


It shows that there are seven unemployed workers for each job opening.  Other sources report a similar trend – The EPI reports 5.4 as of Jan 2010, and closer to 4.5 now. The important thing to note is how different it is from the recession in 2001, where it hovered from 1.1 to 4.0, depending on how you measure it.

Of course, this is the overall picture for all jobs in all US regions, and perhaps not relevant to your job market. For example, Dice reports that there are shortages for .NET developers. I would imagine that the shape of the curve is similar across various segments, if not the amplitudes.

In this kind of labor market, job seekers need strategies for standing out and need to start thinking about this well before they need a job – maybe be thinking about it all of the time.

My advice is the same as it has been in the past:

  1. Hone your craft – be the most qualified person for the job you want. You don’t need a job to get experience programming.
  2. Research any company you plan to apply for, and tailor your application.
  3. Put together a portfolio. This will become the norm – right now, it’s a way to stand out.
  4. Build up your professional network. You’re more likely to get a job through an introduction rather than adding your resumé to their pile.

Start now – doing these things while you are looking for a job is too late.