Unemployment is at 7.2% according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. It is a relatively scary number. Right? I have no doubt if you are unemployed or your company is contracting.

Allow me to offer some insight related to statistics most people never see. Each month I spend time on the U.S Department of Labor’s website evaluating a variety of statistics and trends. (I know, you wonder why and how I find the time.) The sight has some wonderful tools that let you select your criteria. I’d like to share information from a report I ran in January shortly after the bureau published its December unemployment rate.

The unemployment rate for individuals (men and women) of all races that are 25 years and older with a college degree is 3.5% (for December) and 2.6% for all of 2008. I assume this criterion is much more representative of the types of individuals you hire. Furthermore, the rule of thumb related to the unemployment ratio is that 3% means virtually everyone is employed when you take into consideration the number of job openings and hires each month (of course another report you can run). Another interesting trend is that number of job hires has exceeded the number of job openings for the last several months.

Have you seen this reflected in your hiring process?

Many of my clients hired throughout 2008 and I see their hiring has already picked up as we enter 2009. One of the biggest mistakes I observed was organizations losing their best candidates as they carefully waded through the significant number of potential applicants because they thought they had the “luxury” of a robust candidate pipeline. Many of these candidates were unemployed and the simple fact remains that the truly talented and best candidates are usually employed and passive and lose interest as time drags on.

My suggestion for 2009 is to revert back (or at least start) to more aggressively pursue the strongest individuals and not let them time out of your process while you evaluate all those candidates.