CogsThe jobs picture for the United States continues to improve, with many economists declaring a “return to normal.” But has recruiting also returned to normal?

According to CNNMoney (via HartfordBusiness.com) “America had 5 million job openings at the end of November, the most since 2001, according to new government data. That means the U.S. isn’t just back to pre-recession levels, it’s humming better than it has in a decade. In fact, last year was the best year for job growth since 1999.”

The report says, “Unemployment, the official barometer for the health of the U.S. job market, fell to 5.6 percent in December. That’s certainly in the range of normal.”

But not all economists believe in that normalcy, because wages aren’t keeping up with job growth. Median weekly earnings in the U.S. are just shy of $800 — the same as in 2007, after adjusting for inflation. It’s hard for a family to feel any better off when pay isn’t keeping up with the cost of living.

“We still have a ways to go before wage growth accelerates and the labor market really looks ‘normal,’” Thomas Simmons of Jefferies told CNNMoney. Jeffries said that, even though hiring is back 1999 levels, wage growth is only 1.7 percent a year right now, whereas wage growth was 3.6 percent in December 1999.

All of this seems to be in keeping with what a lot of recruiters already know. As Entrepreneur reported, “Talent acquisition is a top priority for employers in 2015. LinkedIn’s 2015 Global Recruiting Trends [report] released in October projected that employers will need to create larger budgets and prepare to hire in larger volumes over the next year.”

Increased hiring means an increased focus on retention, too, according to Entrepreneur: “The Conference Board, a New York-based research group, discovered 52.3 percent of 1,673 Americans surveyed in June are unhappy at work … Unhappy workers typically leave their jobs to explore new opportunities in an improved economy. So employers should find new ways to retain and recruit talent.”

The new normal is also going to require that recruiters sell their companies to prospective job hires like never before. Entrepreneur advises that recruiters “[c]reate a compelling employer brand by designing a company career website for job seekers outlining the organization’s values, culture, accomplishments and benefits. Employers can also enhance their company’s image on social-media platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook and engage with prospective employees online.”

Entrepreneur adds that recruiting might have to be done among the self-employed, too. According to a study of more than 5,000 American freelancers released in August by the Freelancers Union and Elance-oDesk, 34 percent of the U.S. workforce — or  53 million people — work as freelancers in some capacity.

Recruiters should expect the new normal to be busy. “The bottom line is that there are still way too many unemployed people and way too many people working part-time who would prefer full-time employment to call what we saw in December 2014 anything other than nice, but distinctly subpar,” James Smith, who runs Econforecaster.com, told CNNMoney.

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