While the job market has shown signs of improvement since our February cover story “Field Guide to the Jobless Recovery,” there is a long way to go before American workers enjoy anything close to the employment levels of just five years ago. Here's a look at both a macro and micro perspective on the emerging job market.

On the macro level, The New York Times ran an interesting editorial in May about the outsourcing trend and where the jobs of the future will be. According to authors W. Michael Cox, Richard Alm, and Nigel Holmes, we should forget about trying to hold onto the job status quo: “Trade and technology will transform the economy whether we like it not,” they say. Over time, workers move up what they call a “hierarchy of human talents,” in which jobs demand higher-order skills and offer better pay and working conditions.

The editorial was accompanied by a chart illustrating this hierachy of talents, which, starting from top to bottom, showed jobs requiring people skills and emotional intelligence (such as lawyers and nurses); imagination and creativity (actors and hairstylists); analytical reasoning (medical scientists and legal assistants); manual dexterity (sewing machine operators, tool and die); and muscle power (farm work, timber cutters). Not surprisingly, employment gains in the last year were greatest in the top two categories and showed significant declines in the other levels.

On the surface, Cox, Alm, and Holmes' hierarchy of talents would seem to bode well for meeting planners — who certainly need people skills and emotional intelligence to do their jobs. But looking at the micro level — the meeting planning market — at least one job recruiter sees a different dynamic at play.

The turbulent economy has made many more organizations turn to outside temporary help with meeting planning, says Dawn Penfold, president of Meeting Candidate Network Inc., a New York City placement firm for meeting planners.

Penfold started the Meeting Temp Jobs Network (www.meetingtempjobs.com) as a new division of her company a year and a half ago, when the number of job listings for full-time staff employees took a dive, reflecting a larger trend. Penfold expects the demand for temporary planners to continue even as organizations bring back some in-house jobs.

“Companies like hiring temps because they don't have to have the head count and they don't have to have the benefits. It costs an estimated 40 to 50 percent above the salary to have a permanent employee,” she says. When Penfold started Meeting Temp Jobs Network in 2002 she typically had 100 to 150 staff positions available at a time. That number is now a fraction of what it was, and placing temporary positions now accounts for 75 percent of her business.

Though she has seen searches for in-house employment increase in the past year, “I don't think we will ever get back to [the job levels of] 2000. I don't think that period is something we can measure as a normal economy.”

New Way to Job Search

If today's jobless economic recovery is hitting a little too close to home, surf over to The Meetings Group Web site, meetingsnet.com, the electronic home of this magazine. The site features a continually updated listing of jobs for meeting professionals that is searchable by industry or by state.

And if your organization is looking to hire meetings personnel, you're in luck. Just click on the “Post a Job” option for details on how to get your listing onto the site.