Demand for health care and social services remains high in the Rochester/Finger Lakes region.

If you want to land a job, now is a good time, according to the experts.

January usually starts slowly as people come back from holiday vacations, but by week two things are running smoothly. Once that happens, hiring picks up pretty fast, with interviews starting up and the momentum lasting into February, according to the job-seeker blog “Career Sidekick.”

Companies get their new hiring budgets for the year in January and hiring activity that was delayed in November and December can move forward. So there’s a backlog of jobs that needs to be filled.

Sound good? Well, of course there’s a lot more to it than that. Timing, location, your skills, experience and a slew of other factors come into play. Then, there’s the job market.

Nationally, there is good news. According to the most recent jobs report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of Jan. 5 the national unemployment rate had fallen to a 17-year low of 4.1 percent. And hiring is up.

College graduates, especially, should benefit. Employers plan to hire 4 percent more new graduates from the class of 2018 than they did from last year’s class, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers Job Outlook 2018.

“While the 4 percent increase is lower than the hiring projections over the past several years, it continues to point to a positive job market for new college graduates,” according to the survey.

Location, location

You may be hard pressed to find the greater Rochester and Finger Lakes region at the top of a list rating best places for jobs nationally. There’s a lot to recommend the region — rural character, recreation, tourism, quality education and affordable home prices relative to other regions, to name a few.

WalletHub’s “2018’s Best Places to Find a Job” ranked Rochester 147 out of the more than 180 U.S. cities it compared using 26 job-market indicators. The top four of five best cities for jobs are in Arizona: Chandler, Scottsdale, Peoria and Gilbert. San Francisco ranks third. If you want to be on the East Coast, Portland, Maine, comes in at number seven. Boston, Massachusetts, is 10th and shows a lot of promise, according to the analysis.

Where NY stands

In New York, the statewide unemployment rate dipped from 4.7 percent to 4.6 percent in December 2017, according to preliminary figures released Jan. 18 by the state Department of Labor.

The Rochester region lost 3,500 (nonfarm) private sector and government jobs, however. Private sector jobs accounted for the bulk of the job loss, at 2,800. Over the past 12 months, the Rochester region was one of three regions in the state to lose private sector jobs.

The Rochester region covers Ontario, Livingston, Wayne, Monroe, Orleans and Yates counties.

These six counties did see areas of growth in several fields, including educational and health/social services; leisure and hospitality; natural resources; mining and construction; and information. Losses were concentrated in trade; transportation and utilities; professional and business services; financial activities; and manufacturing.

Michael Woloson, business service coordinator at Finger Lakes Works, said health-care jobs remain in high demand, along with those other areas of growth. While traditional manufacturing is losing jobs, advanced-manufacturing jobs are in demand, he said.

Finger Lakes Community College stays strong with its offering of advanced-manufacturing machinist and mechatronic technology programs.

A federal grant made it possible for FLCC to offer free tuition to students ages 17 to 29 for its short-term job-training programs in advanced manufacturing. A six-month advanced-manufacturing machinist course, in which participants learn to use computer-controlled machines to make precision parts, is running now through March 16 at G.W. Lisk Co. in Clifton Springs. The college also runs a 12-week mechatronic technology program, which provides training in the mechanical and electrical fundamentals common to many businesses, at its Victor Campus Center.

FLCC launched its first advanced-manufacturing program with G.W. Lisk Co. in 2011 because of the rising demand for skilled workers. Advanced manufacturing differs from traditional manufacturing in its reliance on computers and the need for clean, climate-controlled working areas.

Woloson said positions in advanced manufacturing continue to go unfilled because of a skills gap. Couple that with the openings in all levels of health care.

“These two major industries are looking for people with the right skills,” he said. “The market is pretty strong.”

More to weigh for job seekers

The state Department of Labor gives a “labor market analyst's view” of what a qualified job seeker can reasonably expect in finding jobs by region. The current jobs list for the Finger Lakes region cites bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks; cashiers; office clerks; personal-care aides; secretaries and administrative assistants (except legal, medical, and executive); security guards; and waiters and waitresses.

In her May 2017 report for the Finger Lakes, Labor Market Analyst Tammy Marino mentioned the major role area hospitals play in employment. Within the health-care sector, “job growth in the region’s hospital industry stands out,” stated Marino.

Hospitals added 1,200 jobs to reach a total of 29,500 in the third quarter of 2016. The three most common job titles in this industry are registered nurses, nursing assistants, and physicians and surgeons. All three titles are projected to experience above-average growth through 2022.

Marino noted the University of Rochester/Strong Health as the area’s largest employer and it also ranks among the largest employers in the state. Other area hospitals, including Rochester General, Unity and Highland Hospitals, also are among the region’s largest private employers.

Demand will also continue to grow in the social assistance industry, for employers that cover a wide variety of areas such as adoption services, senior citizen centers, child day care and disaster relief, among others.

Job titles in this industry, such as home-health aides, child-care workers, personal- and home- care aides, and social- and human-services assistants, are “projected to be among the fastest growing occupations in the Finger Lakes through 2020,” Marino said.