SAN FRANCISCO - Whether you’ve been eager to switch employers for some time, or are just starting to think about landing a new job, the economy may be on your side in 2004.
A hiring boom could begin as early as the first quarter as U.S. companies budget for staff expansion in the new year. Renewed hiring already is under way and should accelerate as the year progresses, labor market experts said.
Jobs likely will flow to the hard-hit travel, trade and financial sectors from construction and housing, which have been going gangbusters on low interest rates and tax cuts, said Joel Prakken, chairman of Macroeconomic Advisers, a consulting firm in St. Louis.
‘‘As the economy picks up, the resources that flowed to the construction sector are going to have to flow back to the business sector to finance the rise in capital expenditures we expect,’’ Prakken said. ‘‘Businesses are finding they’re going to have to modernize their equipment as the economy starts rebounding.’’
A nationwide shortage of pharmacists and nurses poses promising prospects for health-care job seekers as well.
What’s more, the stock market rebound is generating ‘‘wealth effects’’ where consumers tend to spend more after seeing their net worth rise on paper. That may lay the groundwork for more jobs in the service sector, Prakken said.
Such a shift may require a change in mentality. It’s been a while since many workers considered a new job a real possibility, said Joan Lloyd, a management consultant in Milwaukee.
‘‘They’ve been hunkered down in their bunkers, and they’re looking now to make their move,’’ Lloyd said. ‘‘With the economy starting to really roll, this might be the time for a really big move either to entrepreneurship, to an entirely different company or (consider) a career change.’’
The number of people out of work and seeking jobs has held steady in recent months. Unemployment hovered at 5.9 percent in November, the same as a year earlier, but down from a recent peak of 6.4 percent in June, according to the U.S. Labor Department.
The jobless recovery that lingered for so long appears to be easing, though it has a long way to go, said Jared Bernstein, senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute.
The economy grew at an 8.2 percent annual rate in the third quarter, marking the fastest gross domestic product growth in 20 years. Growth will likely fall to about 4 percent in the fourth quarter, but it all bodes well for labor expansion, Bernstein said.
The first half of 2004 likely will bring net job grow th of 100,000 to 150,000 new jobs a month, up from the current 80,000 monthly job additions, he said. The number should rise to 150,000 to 200,000 a month in the second half of next year.
Bernstein and Prakken forecast an unemployment rate of 5.4 percent a year from now.
Still, workers can afford to be only slightly pickier this year than they were last year, Bernstein said.
Despite the temptation to fantasize about another tight labor market where employers wave bonuses and quirky perks to woo talent as they did in 1999, Americans still will have to work at finding work, economists said.
With that in mind, here’s a guide to landing the next gig — whether you’re actively looking or haven’t conceived of taking such a leap in years:
• Regroup and reassess.
• Step up your networking. Attend meetings of professional organizations and alumni groups.
• Revamp your resume by writing in detail about the value you add in particular areas.
• Rehearse your story verbally. Strengthen your pitch by doing mock interviews.
• Retool and upgrade your skills by finishing a degree that you’ve put off, taking a course that enhances your skills.