It's still just the first month of 2014, but some signs already are pointing to more jobs than usual opening up for prospective employees.
Local staffing agencies such as Spherion, Williamsport are reporting a variety of positions for different types of work. Amanda Wright, Spherion business development manager, said the first part of any year normally is the slowest time for job hirings.
"This is different than in years past," she said. "We are seeing some great new openings coming."
The jobs that agency clients are seeking, she said, range from laborers to professional positions in sales and management. The company, like many staffing agencies, works with local businesses to place job seekers. As of Jan. 23, Spherion had so far this year found jobs for 38 people, Wright noted.
Sheryl Osborn, manager of DePasquale Staffing Services, Williamsport, said it's normal to see a slow-down in job requests this time of year.
"It is our experience that there has been an increase in our business earlier in the year than usual," she said.
Osborn said she it's difficult to know why this year is different.
She speculated that perhaps many companies simply may have decided to no longer put off hiring people.
Jennifer Brule, of Elwood Staffing, Williamsport, said her agency definitely has seen a recent rise in the request for jobs tied to the natural gas industry. And she's confident those numbers will only improve in the spring. Overall, job openings seem to be up from last year at this time.
"I think 2014 will be a good year, just on what we're hearing from customers," she said.
She described 2013 as slow.
Tom Ruhl, vice president and chief operating officer, Keystone Staffing, Montoursville, said he hasn't noticed a big difference in job openings compared to last year. But he wouldn't classify the current job outlook as dismal either.
"We have seen a nice flow of people in the office looking for work," he said.
Positions include those in clerical, office work and manufacturing.
The gas industry has not yielded a lot of new openings of late, he added.
"I think the challenge is finding good people," he said. "Employers are constantly faced with finding people who are willing to work hard but also have a computer/technology background."
Overall, he sees 2014 as being a good year for hirings.
Williamsport/Lycoming Chamber of Commerce President Vincent Matteo said there are available jobs for both unskilled and skilled workers.
"It's positive (news) with a negative bent to it," he said. "They do have jobs but many of those jobs are going unfilled."
One problem, he noted, is that candidates in some cases aren't passing drug tests that many employers require as a condition for being hired. The state Department of Labor and Industry reported Friday that Pennsylvania's unemployment rate fell to 6.7 percent in December, its lowest point in five years, matching the national jobless figure.
A recent U.S. Labor Department report revealed that job openings rose 1.8 percent in November 2013 to a seasonally adjusted 4 million. Jobs openings had not topped 4 million since March 2008, according to the report.