For South Florida workers frustrated with a less than stellar job market during a sluggish recovery, this year should be a good time to get back into the job hunt.
With a real resurgence in the job market, workplace experts are forecasting good career opportunities in 2004.
But job seekers will need to maneuver strategically in a recovering job market. The labor market is rapidly changing in many industries with companies still reorganizing and trimming their work forces even as others are aggressively hiring.
An estimated 160,645 new jobs will be created in Florida next year for an annual growth rate of 1.97 percent, show projections from the Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation.
That is, of course, way down from the boom years of the late 1990s when yearly growth rates topped 4 percent. Still, Florida's gain of 97,300 new jobs for the year ending Nov. 30 was the highest of any state.
"It looks like the jobs engine is finally starting to kick in and we're seeing a long-awaited turnaround," said Mason Jackson, executive director of Broward County WorkForce One, the state agency for unemployment and training.
Medical researcher, truck driver, nurse, pharmacist, accountant, and workers in wholesale trade and construction are among those with good job prospects for 2004 in South Florida. Several are on our list of "Hot Jobs," meaning they're fast-growing, well-paying and in demand.
"I tell clients that if they see a good job candidate and like them, hire them -- or they will be grabbed up," said Joan Greenberg, area manager for staffing giant Manpower Inc. in Plantation. "The recovery is happening quicker here than other areas of the country."
Signs of strength
South Florida employers showed optimism in their hiring forecast for the first quarter of 2004, with nearly one of every three employers planning to hire new workers, according to a mid-December survey by Manpower. Nationwide, the average among employers was only one in five.
The outlook is especially strong in West Palm Beach, where 40 percent of employers plan to hire new workers from January to March.
Construction, manufacturing, finance, insurance and real estate firms as well as customer service businesses such as call centers and warehouses are particularly upbeat about jobs, the survey found.
"Business is incredible already and we see an even stronger 2004," said Dan Catalfumo, owner of Catalfumo Construction & Development in Palm Beach Gardens. "I expect to bring on 60 or more new employees next year, with nearly half in upper management and development."
Even the badly battered technology and telecommunications industries see improving business conditions and are planning for new hires, said Deborah Vazquez, founder of ProTech, an information technology staffing and recruiting company in Miami.
"A recovery is under way," said Vazquez. "We're seeing a lot more hiring -- from computer support to systems engineers."
The boom in biotech
The next job boom in South Florida will likely be in biotechnology and research, and international business, say workplace experts.
The Scripps Research Institute of La Jolla, Calif., plans to start work at its new research center in Palm Beach County as early as June. Scripps is leasing 10,000 square feet of laboratory space at the Boca Raton campus of Florida Atlantic University, which will partner with Scripps on biotech research.
Scripps is expected to bring upward of 6,500 new jobs over the next 10 to 15 years. Other biotech-related companies coming from the Scripps expansion will mean additional new jobs in the region.