A return to something approaching normal seems to be on the horizon and the American workforce is expressing increasing levels of confidence as vaccination efforts gain traction. This week, the Forbes Advisor-Ipsos Consumer Confidence Weekly Tracker turned in a week-over-week increase of 3.7%, rising to a confidence level of 65.5 out of a possible 1000. This confidence level, while still lower than pre-pandemic levels is the highest confidence recorded since March 2020. Is job growth really poised to rebound and if so, where will it be the most noticeable both in terms of location and industry?

First, a sampling of evidence indicating both hiring authorities and workers are feeling more sanguine about employment levels in the US.

Just last week, Staffing Industry Analysts commented on IHS Markit Business Outlook research noting, “Overall expectations regarding employment improved in February, the research found. The net balance of firms forecasting a rise in staffing numbers rose to 19%, the highest for two years. The uptick in predictions was led by manufacturers. At 34%, the net balance of goods producers that expect workforce numbers to increase was the strongest since June 2012.”

Also in March, “members of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), which sets Fed interest rates and other monetary policy tools, upgraded their estimates of unemployment and economic growth in new projections released Wednesday” according to The Hill. And while Fed officials did not expect jobless rates in the U.S. to return to pre-pandemic levels until 2023, their median estimate for 2021 was revised downward from a predicted 5% level by year’s end to 4.5% – clearly reflecting expected improvement.

So where – both in terms of industry sectors and geographic locations – will the projected job growth come from? The answer to these questions is of particular import to those tasked with workforce management planning.

Experts suggest that the lower end of the pay schedule will not see the early rebound currently being forecast. Lower wage roles, typically in leisure and hospitality are still among the hardest hit by the pandemic. Look for bigger rebounds in manufacturing. The industry had already been experiencing an increase pre-COVID as manufacturing was increasingly being re-shored – a trend accelerated by pandemic concerns about imports.

As for geographic location, Forbes says, “Those looking for jobs in the new year would be wise to focus on the Midwest, where ManpowerGroup forecasts a seasonally adjusted net employment outlook of 20%—the highest of any region.” This prediction ties neatly into the rebound in manufacturing which has witnessed supply chains recover after having been stretched past functional limits earlier in the pandemic. Forbes also notes a growth outlook of 17% in the U.S. South, 16% in the Northeast and 15% in the Western states.

In reality, hiring authorities should be ready for anything as the situation remains fluid and unpredictable. Having scalable, flexible workforce management processes and practices in place makes the difference. Is your operation ready for anything? Ask nextSource for help assessing your current state.