Cautious employers keep hiring levels flat for remainder of 2011 The job market has been a rollercoaster this year. In the beginning of 2011, hopes were high for a labor market turnaround: the economy added nearly 750,000 jobs in the first four months of the year, and the unemployment rate was down almost an entire percentage point from the end of 2010. Then came the fifth month. Employment increased by only 25,000 jobs in May, the start of what would prove to be a summer of labor-market stagnation? a summer that ended with Bureau of Labor Statistics' data showing employment growth that was completely flat in August. Things appear to have picked up again in September ? private sector jobs- tracker ADP reported 91,000 jobs were created last month ? but it doesn't look like the labor market will quite regain the strength it displayed at the beginning of the year. According to CareerBuilder's Fourth Quarter Hiring Forecast, 21 percent of employers plan to hire new employees through the end of the year ? on par with fourth quarter survey results from years past, but lower than anticipated hiring levels in the first three quarters of 2011. Though a dip in hiring is a not unusual during Q4, CareerBuilder CEO Matt Ferguson believes global economic factors like rising commodity prices, a volatile stock market and concerns over Europe's sovereign debt crisis have created an especially cautious hiring climate going into the end of the year. "While hiring is historically slower in the fourth quarter, recent world events and a structurally impaired U.S. economy are causing employers to be a little more guarded," Ferguson says. In addition, one in four businesses report having open positions for which they cannot find qualified candidates, according to a separate September CareerBuilder survey of more than 2,600 employers nationwide. Despite these challenges, however, Ferguson's overall view on the job market remains positive. "Job creation levels are not yet high enough to drive down the unemployment rate, but the hiring trends we've seen through our surveys and on our job site still indicate an overall positive sentiment among employers," he says. "For eight consecutive quarters, 20 percent or more of employers reported adding new jobs and the same is expected for Q4." What does this mean for job seekers? In addition to overall hiring predictions, the survey also highlights a couple of important trends that may have an impact on job seekers' search strategies in the coming months. 1. Employers continue to have difficulty finding well-qualified employees According to the survey, "Sixty-seven percent of employers expressed concern over the education and skills gap in the U.S. and corresponding deficit in talent for specialized positions." Employers cited the most difficulty finding qualified employees in the fields of engineering and information technology. That employers continue to have a hard time filling positions despite the fact that are more than four unemployed workers for every job opening in the U.S. means one of two things. One, that applicants truly lack the skills necessary to carry out required job duties, in which case continuing education or retraining is necessary. Or two, that job seekers simply lack the ability to properly express their qualifications during the application process. For those who have up-to-date training in their fields, landing a job may be as simple as reworking application materials. "When developing your résumé or preparing for interviews, make sure you are able to communicate the value you bring to the organization and why you are a fit for the position," says Ryan Sutton, senior regional vice president at staffing firm Robert Half International. "You must be able to show employers how they'll benefit from hiring you." 2. Temporary hiring ramps up at the end of the year Typically, the silver lining in fourth quarter hiring lies in temporary positions, and that is no different this year. Twenty-seven percent of employers plan to hire seasonal staff in the last few months of 2011, 17 percent of which say they plan to turn some of those temporary workers into full-time staff. "Companies commonly bring in interim professionals at the end of the year for projects such as year-end close and tax season, and these engagements can turn into full-time positions," Sutton says. Even if the work doesn't turn into a full-time offer, temporary or seasonal positions can still provide job seekers with valuable skills, experiences and networking opportunities. "It's important to keep your skills current while you are searching for a new job, whether this is through temporary assignments, volunteer work or holiday employment," Sutton says. "You should be able to take something out of every job you have. For example, even if you're an accountant working in retail over the holidays, you can hone your customer service and communication skills. Every job also represents a great way to expand your network. You never know who you might meet."