2015 has come to a close, and 2016 is here. What does that mean for Maryland’s workforce?

Since the economic downturn occurred seven years ago, the economy has slowly been recovering. Since 2010, the percentage of individuals who are unemployed, underemployed and long-term unemployed has been decreasing.

In February 2010, the Maryland unemployment rate hit its high of 7.8%, which translates to more than 230,000 individuals unemployed. In October 2015, the unemployment rate was down more than 2.5% to 5.1%, or just over 160,000 individuals unemployed.

Unemployment is expected to continue to decrease. According to the Department of Planning, the number of jobs is expected to increase during the next few years, with a total growth of 6% between 2015 and 2020. The housing market is also expected to continue its slow recovery.

Last year, the top growing sectors were educational services and professional services occupations, followed by leisure and hospitality and retail trade; according to the Maryland state occupational projection for 2016, jobs within the projected 2016 top five industries will grow by at least 5%.

The largest expected growth is within food preparation and servicing, with an expected 13% growth across the state. Tied for second are the retail and health care industries, at 7% projected growth for both. Rounding off the top are information technology (IT) and professional services, which are expected to continue a strong presence, especially in central Maryland, with an expected 5% growth. This is a slight change from last year’s top growing sectors, with only retail and professional services staying in the top five industry growth list.

During the holiday season, hiring tends to slow down as recruiters and hiring managers are on vacation and wrapping up their calendar year. With the expected growth, many unemployed or underemployed individuals will have a rejuvenated job market to look forward to in 2016.

A trend that has been seen across Maryland is the reduction of certain specialized positions and the integration of those specialized skills into other generalized positions. This trend has been coined the “hybrid employee,” and Bentley University, of Waltham, Mass., and Burning Glass Technologies, a provider of advanced Statistical Natural Language processing technologies to the human resources sector, analyzed more than 24.5 million job listings, across nine job categories, from September 2014 to August 2015 to pinpoint the trend.

Through their analysis, they found that 71% of in-demand skills were required across at least two job categories. The six most sought-after skills in 2016 are part of the hybrid employee trend and can be found across multiple types of jobs. The most sought-after skill is social media, with 173% growth in the number of jobs requiring this skill in the past five years. The other top skills include data analysis; sales; business development; and SQL and SAP, two programming languages. All of these skills were required in at least four or more different job categories, with some being required across almost 10 different categories.

This means that, even with years of experience under their belt, many unemployed individuals could find themselves to not have all the skills/up-to-date certifications needed to re-enter their field. For example a human resources job could now require knowledge of social media platforms, a skill that was rarely included in job postings for these types of positions.

The job market is always changing, and in order to maximize a job search, you must be aware of the current trends so that you can tailor your search and résumé to land that next career step.

Kirk Murray is the CEO of the Anne Arundel Workforce Development Corp. He can be contacted at 410-987-3890 and kmurray@aawdc.org.