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by SixFigureStart | March 29, 2010


While the whole country has been wrapped up in the health care debate—not to mention the fallout from the bill's passage—it's been easy to forget that we're still in the midst of an unemployment crisis. Having surprised many observers by dropping to 9.7 percent in January, the unemployment rate has remained there all year. With the official March report due out Friday, we're sure to get a renewed bout of interest in the number, which analysts are predicting should be a positive one.

As I've done on this blog before, I've correlated the results of a recent homepage poll on jobseeker sentiment—a leading indicator of how easy it is to find a job, rather than a simple snapshot of what happened over any given four week period. (It's my contention that the sentiment index is of more use than the unemployment number as an indicator of where we're going—the latter only measuring where it is we've been.)

All of which brings us to some good news: some 57 percent of respondents to our most recent "Jobseeker Sentiment" poll believe that the job market is better than it was three months ago, with only 22 percent reporting that conditions are worse than they were back at the turn of the year. If that isn't encouraging, it's hard to imagine what would be.

The one note of caution from our poll—which we're conducting every other month at present—is that the numbers reporting "significantly better" opinions of the job market have dropped from 12 percent of respondents in January to just 9 percent in March. Those reporting slight improvements, meanwhile, have jumped from 44 to 48 percent.

While the unemployment number on Friday will tell us what happened for March—and will likely also show a "slight improvement" of one- or two-tenths of a point—I'm optimistic that the jobseeker sentiment number above points not to a past rise, but to a future one, in which figures for April will continue to rise.

--Posted by Phil Stott,