At Last, a Green Shoot - Make That Two

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Could demand for financial professionals be picking up?

Twice in the last two days, contacts with a finger on the financial job market's pulse report signs of a tentative uptick.

"We're starting to pick up a feeling of optimism," says one Wall Street headhunter. "There is a definite turn in the market. Who knows if it will be sustained. But this is the first turn that I've heard. Something may be starting."

Another contact, an alternative investments professional in transition for several months, relays hearing this week that three associates landed new financial jobs in New York.

One, pursuing an MBA, joined a top-tier bank's prime brokerage unit. Another joined a bank as a relationship manager. A third landed in March with a big non-U.S. bank, my contact recently discovered.

A month ago, when I inquired in various forums whether people saw the "green shoots" that Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke had mentioned in March, I picked up mixed but mostly negative signals. The latest anecdotes sound brighter. Plus, Goldman Sachs Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein told shareholders Friday that "business feels like it's off its lowest ebb," and, "We don't feel the pressure to downsize now."

Even the seemingly bleak April nonfarm payrolls report released Friday contains a few hopeful forward-looking signals beneath the surface. The jobless rate jumped to 0.4 percentage point to 8.9 percent, and the economy shed more than half a million jobs for a sixth straight month. That's the bad news. But, overtime hours edged up and the labor force swelled - events that could foreshadow a bottom in the labor market.

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