Hiring levels nationwide are creeping up toward where they were before the recession began in December 2007 according to the latest data from the U.S. Labor Department.
Last month the number of job openings advertised nationwide increased 12 percent from December 2011 with 3.67 million job openings across the U.S.
But analysts are saying hiring will remain modest over the next few months since there wasn't much of an increase from October to November.
Alvina Foshee, left, and Kurt Rose browse job listings online at the resource room in the Fulton Montgomery Schoharie Workforce Solutions center in the Riverfront Center in Amsterdam on Friday. (The Leader-Herald/ Amanda May Metzger)
More than 12 million people were unemployed in November - that's 3.3 unemployed people, on average, competing for each open job. That's the lowest ratio since November 2008. Still, in a healthy economy, the ratio is roughly 2 to 1, The Associated Press reports.
The Labor Department said the number of people seeking unemployment aid slightly increased last week, ticking up 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 371,000. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, rose after falling to a four-year low the previous week.
Overall, these reports suggest the job market is improving at the start of 2013 at roughly the same slow but steady pace as last year.
"We do hear, at least from some private companies, that they see more jobs being listed in the coming year, so there might be some optimism that employers are hiring more people," said Fulton, Montgomery and Schoharie Counties Workforce Development Board Executive Director Gail B. Breen.
Breen said job opportunities are strong in distribution, healthcare and a new form of high tech manufacturing that requires a different skill set than manufacturing jobs years ago.
"Healthcare, manufacturing and distribution centers - those are probably the big three for us," Breen said.
On Friday Kurt Rose, an Amsterdam resident who has been out of work for three months, was browsing jobs at the resource room in the Fulton Montgomery Schoharie Workforce Solutions center in Amsterdam.
Rose is originally from Jamaica. He's a permanent resident now and has lived in the U.S. for eight years. He never thought he'd have trouble finding work because of his many years of work experience and strong work ethic.
"The job search is tough to be honest," Rose said. "But I'm not going to give up."
Rose said he visits the center three to five times a week in search of a local job in the warehouse or production fields.
"The service here is really good. There are nice people here to help you with whatever they can," Rose said.
Another job seeker, Alvina Foshee, said the center is a valuable resource because it offers sufficient time and resources for job seekers to find opportunities. If someone doesn't have Internet access at home, online job seeking can be difficult because public libraries generally enforce time limits on their computers.
At Workforce Solutions, Foshee said people can even make phonecalls to potential employers.
Foshee is looking for a job as an administrative assistant, program coordinator or paralegal. She's currently in the office support program for the state Department of Labor.
"What they do here is help you critique your resume. Something you might think is menial may turn out to be something extraordinary," she said.
The center also helps people upgrade their skills and find free training opportunities. People can get certificates proving their expertise in different computer programs or other skills.
"They show you that you have a capability," Foshee said. "The field is open to you. You just really have to apply yourself."
Breen noted that Workforce Solutions is for anybody who's looking for a job.
"Whether they're young people looking for their first job, whether they're being laid off or going back to work, you have to expect the competition is going to be really great for those jobs," Breen said. "What we do is show them what will bring them to the very top so that, first of all, they can get in the door and get an interview. Once they get that interview, it's helping them with interview skills so that when they leave that interview the interviewers look at each other and say, 'Wow, that's someone I'd like to see working for me.'"
The Workforce Solutions center offers many services that do not require income eligibility. It doesn't matter whether the job seeker is a displaced worker or just looking for a better job.
"We're not just the unemployment insurance office. We work with people who are looking for their first job, and a better job, too," Breen said.
Anybody can take part in workshops offered on resume writing, interview skills, basic computer skills and employment trends to highlight what's new, Breen said.
"All those free resources are a great way to get started," Breen said. "Income eligibility requirements kick in if you want us to help support training for you. When people say, 'I want to go to training, can you help support my tuition?' at that point you have to be unemployed or at a certain income level. For all those other activities and basic computer skills, we have online computer training we can make available to people at no cost."
Anyone who has Internet access can take courses through Metrix, supplemental online training that offers over 4,000 classes.
Anyone interested in that just needs to attend the Metrix orientation at one of the Workforce Solutions sites in Amsterdam's Riverfront Center, or Gloversville at 43-47 North Main St., or 795 E. Main St. in Cobleskill.
"They can do the work right at home. That is available to anybody. It's not a college credit - you get a certificate at the end of the online training," Breen said.
Having a certificate to prove training in a skill is another way for job applicants to set themselves apart, Breen said.
Locally many are hoping new businesses and expanding existing companies will jumpstart the job market.
There are several retail opportunities with the Walmart Supercenter expected to add about 100 jobs, and the discount namebrand store TJ Maxx is expected to begin construction in the spring in Johnstown on Route 30A.
California-based CG Roxane is close to opening its 170,000-square-foot structure in the town of Johnstown, where a staff of 33 will start packaging its Crystal Geyser Alpine Spring Water this year. The company has said it could hire additional workers after it completes a second phase of construction to add warehouse space.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced just before Christmas that several development projects in the area will get millions of dollars in state funding. They include an aquaculture facility in Montgomery County's Glen Canal View Business Park, which is expected to create 175 jobs. The state will provide $1.4 million of the project's estimated $50 million cost and $1.38 million for Mohawk Fabric in Amsterdam.
In Fulton County, $1 million in state money will support the expansion of the Gloversville-Johnstown Wastewater Treatment Facility, which will grow to accommodate more output from Fage USA's Greek yogurt factory. Fage itself is undertaking a $150 million expansion that could add 150 jobs at the yogurt plant in Johnstown.
Fulton Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce & Industry President Mark Kilmer - who just secured his position in the new year - said he believes companies are looking for dedicated workers.
"There is a need for [employees] out there," he said. "There's a lot of job openings in our area."
Even if the employer has not yet posted an opening, it doesn't hurt for the job applicant to research the company headquarters or human resources department and preemptively send a resume, cover letter and other materials to highlight special skills, Kilmer said.
"If I was unemployed right now I'd find out where they're headquartered and send a resume," Kilmer said.
Showing interest in the job before it's announced shows initiative; it shows the applicant is up to date on the latest company news, Kilmer said.
"Forwarding information ahead of time gives you credibility," he said. "There's no reason you can't pre-introduce yourself. It shows ambition."
After that, Kilmer said employers have told him it's essential for a job seeker to dress and act professional during an interview.
Arrive on time and show enthusiasm for the prospective job, Kilmer added. These tips may sound basic, but they're among the top comments by employers about their hiring decisions.
"It's showing excitement for the job, dressing for the interview in a presentable [way] and sitting properly," Kilmer said.
"Being job ready," Kilmer added, sums up the quality employers seek.
"It's not just about skills - it's work ethic," he said. "Work preparedness is really important. That's the biggest thing I hear from employers about people coming in for interviews."
In short, skill level and education can often be improved upon if it's the right job candidate, Kilmer said.
Many employers are willing to train if a job applicant makes the right first impression and exhibits the basics.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
News Editor Amanda May Metzger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.