According to an article earlier this week that was featured on CNNMoney.com, the National Association for Business Economics is reporting that for the first time in nearly two years more employers are planning to hire, rather than cut, staff. Similarly, it was noted that more companies increased their capital spending than the number that cut spending. Unemployment is still at historically high levels, but this report is one of many signals that the worst may be over.
While this is clearly good news -- demand for Physical Therapy, Registered Nursing, Occupation Therapist, Speech Langauge Pathologists and other healthcare occupations still expect to be in great demand -- a word of caution may also be in order. An improving job market in the U.S. will likely eventually be reflected in an increase in H-1B petitions filed with the USCIS. Among the top twenty occupations predicted for significant growth were several in IT and healthcare, including: Systems Engineers, Physical Therapists, Computer/Network Security Consultants, Software Developers, and Occupational Therapists. These occupations have been common users of the H-1B program in the United States. Physical Therapists, for example, have long been designated by the U.S. Department of Labor as a national shortage occupation and recruited from abroad.
The USCIS last updated the 2010 H-1B "Cap Count" on September 25, 2009. At that time, there had been approximately 46,700 H-1B petitions filed towards the annual quota of 65,000. Most casual observers see that this is only a few thousand more than were filed as of April 1, 2009, the first day employers were able to file H-1B petitions for the current fiscal year. However, insiders believe that while the economy has significantly reduced the number of H-1B petitions being filed. There has also been a large increase in denials which has impacted the overall number of petitions counted against the quota.
As the U.S. economy and job market continue to improve, the number of H-1B filings may begin to steadily increase. In the short term, there appears to be no cause for alarm. However, if you anticipate any key hires or significant staffing increases, it may be prudent to keep your eye on the cap count in the first quarter of 2010.