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Signs point to more hiring in Mass. in 2014

How might the Massachusetts job market fare in 2014?

Jill Chanin, who runs the local office of the national staffing firm Kelly Services, says she has a good indicator. Her firm has experienced an uptick in requests for “human resource recruiters,” a job with duties that, well, call for recruiting new employees.

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“If you’re going to read anything into it, it means some companies are getting ready to hire,” said Chanin.

Chanin’s reading is consistent with that of many economists and career specialists who expect job growth to accelerate. Despite a disappointing 2013 in Massachusetts, where unemployment rose to 7.1 percent in November from 6.7 percent in January, many analysts expect an improving national economy to help the state economy to regain its footing.

The national unemployment rate declined nearly a point last year, to 7 percent in November. Mark Zandi, chief economist at the forecasting firm Moody’s Analytics, said there’s enough momentum now to drive the national jobless rate as low as 6.25 percent by the end of 2014.

Locally, career specialists and recruiters say they’re seeing higher demand for workers across industries, including financial services, high tech, biotechnology, and health care. Here’s their outlook:

Big data, big opportunities

Maria Stein, associate vice president of Northeastern University’s cooperative-education and career-development programs, said her school can’t produce enough students trained in “big data analytics,” or using computing power to sift, sort, and compile massive amounts of data that can help corporations understand customers and expand their businesses.

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Such tech jobs usually require a software development or computer science degree, with entry-level positions paying anywhere from $60,000 to $70,000. “Every big company is looking for analytics people — retailers, financial firms. It’s a hot area,” said Stein.

Companies also need people who can interpret that data from a business perspective. As a result, people with concentrations and backgrounds in business analytics are much sought after, said Cheri Paulson, director of Babson College’s Graduate Center for Career Development. Pay typically starts at $50,000 to $60,000 for these analysts right out of college.

“They serve as a sort of bridge between the engineers and management,” she said.

Financial services rebound

With the stellar performance of the stock market and improving economy, recruiters say financial service firms and banks — hit hard during the Great Recession — are hiring again.

In particular, financial analysts, with one to three years of experience, are in very high demand by mutual funds, real estate investment trusts, and financial departments within major corporations, said Bill Driscoll, New England president for Robert Half, the professional staffing firm headquartered in California,

Usually requiring business administration, accounting, or math degrees, financial analysts can get paid anywhere from $52,500 to $70,000 a year, said Driscoll.

Internal auditors, who usually need degrees in accounting, are also in high demand, partly due to extra regulatory requirements mandated by the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform bill. The pay can range from $50,000 to $70,000.

College degree needed?

Health care, insurance, and even technology firms increasingly request help finding client-service representatives to help staff call service centers, recruiters say. The positions can pay from $12 to $15 an hour — and sometimes higher, depending on the company.

“We’re seeing a huge surge in this area,” said Jeanine Hamilton, president of Hire Partnership, a Boston staffing firm.

Some companies require call center employees to have college degrees, especially technology companies that need people who can handle basic software and technical questions. But most call center positions don’t require college degrees, said Hamilton.

Another in-demand position: executive assistants. These positions are no longer just about good typing and telephone skills. Executive assistants must be familiar with software such as Word, PowerPoint, Excel and basic photo-edit applications. They must also be skilled at handling and routing communications, said Hamilton.

Most major companies require executive assistants to have college degrees, but many smaller firms don’t. The pay can range from $50,000 to $80,000 per year.

Recruiting recruiters

Last but not least, many companies are seeking human resources professionals who can help them find and land talent. Recruiter jobs require college degrees and more often than not, companies want at least five years of experience, said Chanin of Kelly Services.

The base pay can range from $40,000 to $75,000, with additional commissions for signing new employees, she said.

“Perhaps it’s a precursor of what’s coming,” she said. “I mean, if you’re hiring recruiters, they have to be to there to hire others.”

Jay Fitzgerald can be reached at jayfitzmedia@gmail.com.

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