As 2011 draws to a close, the good news is that some job clubs are disbanding and others have shrinking attendance.
To be sure, hiring floodgates haven't opened, and the jobs may be contract, temporary or part-time, but employers are beginning to pump up their depleted payrolls.
This year's job market will be remembered because:
-- Employers sought "stars" who weren't really looking for a new job. That made it hard for the unemployed, who tended to get passed over in favor of people who were working.
-- Fresh graduates or workers trying for midlife career changes had difficulty competing with experienced applicants in the field _ unless they had specific computer, social media or health service skills.
-- Cash-strapped or cautious employers tried to avoid spending time or money training someone who might not work out. They wanted proven talent who could hit the ground running.
-- Hirers often complained about a mismatch between what they needed and the credentials of the people who applied.
-- There was no economic pressure to raise pay rates. Average raises trailed the rate of inflation. So some jobs were filled for less than what the going rate used to be _ which could explain why some employers got lesser-qualified applicants than they sought.
-- Many specific computer, engineering and health profession jobs lacked enough qualified workers to fill them.
-- Unpaid internships became an increasingly popular way _ sometimes illegally _ for employers to get work done. But they also were a foot in the door for workers who were willing and able to work for free temporarily.
-- Employer-subsidized health insurance plans increasingly required more employee cost-sharing, and some shifted to consumer-directed health plans or a stronger emphasis on employee wellness programs.
-- The pressure to compete globally -- on cost and quality -- permeated most industries. And that prompted greater business involvement in education, locally and nationally, with an eye toward turning out a competitive workforce.