by Amanda Rohrer

The economy’s getting better – the unemployment rate in Minnesota is down below six percent and the monthly employment numbers show more jobs this year than last year. But while there are more jobs and more people employed, the number of people out of work for a year or more (pdf) is still historically high: 44,000 Minnesotans were unemployed a year or more in 2010.


If you’re one of them, you might be wondering how you can take advantage of the improving economy. There’s been improvement, but there are still more workers than jobs, and workers who have been unemployed for a long time are competing against those with much shorter spells of unemployment for the favor of employers who can have their pick. 


Recently, the Harvard Business Review looked at a survey of employers to get an idea of what the people hiring want from applicants. To get a job when the odds aren’t in your favor, the trick is to distinguish yourself.  You may not have been unemployed, but that doesn’t mean you were idle.  Don’t leave the gap on your resume – if you took a class or worked a temporary position or volunteered, make note of it.  Just be sure to relate it back to the job you’re applying to and the skills you have and used.  Coaching a sports team might have required you to use organizational and management skills, or volunteering on church projects might have required you to keep track of a budget.  Demonstrating that you haven’t lost your edge can only make you look better to potential employers.


It is important to also keep an open mind: while jobs are coming back, not all industries are improving at the same rate (pdf). Manufacturing employment is improving, but has yet to replace all the jobs lost during the recession.  The education and health care industries both grew during the recession and slightly faster growth now, during the recovery.  Construction, though, is still losing jobs.  So if you did office work for a construction firm, maybe it’s time to see how other industries can use your transferrable skills.


Many online tools, like Minnesota’s Job Skills Transfer Assessment Tool  or the national MySkillsMyFuture website will allow you to navigate other career fields that are a good match to your current or previous work experience. In addition to finding related jobs, you’ll also find career profiles, training information, and links to job openings. These sites are aimed at getting you back to work.


Amanda Rohrer is an unemployment analyst with the Labor Market Information Office at the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.