At first glance, the U.S. employment market appears as though it is beginning to flourish. The U.S. economy added 146,000 jobs in November, which in turn brought the national unemployment rate down to a four-year low of just 7.7%. This was well in advance of most analysts' forecasts, and continued an upward trend that was first established during the month of July.

On closer inspection, however, the portents for the U.S. employment market remain decidedly uncertain. At the current rate of job creation, the market would not return to its pre-recession level until approximately 2025, while negotiations concerning the fast-approaching fiscal cliff are ongoing and about to reach an extremely critical juncture.

The Three Employment Skills That You Need in 2013
With this in mind, the job market is likely to remain increasingly competitive throughout 2013 and beyond, as candidates will be continually forced to apply for a limited number of opportunities. With financial giant Citigroup planning to cut 11,000 jobs during the first financial quarter of the year, it is clear that employers are looking to adopt a cautious approach to spending and recruit only the most outstanding individuals for their organizations. So what employment skills will help to distinguish you from your rival candidates in an increasingly competitive market? Consider the following:

The Ability to Create a Personal Brand
The nature of recruitment has changed considerably over the last five years as social media has emerged as an increasingly influential professional tool. A growing number of companies even employ specialist firms and agencies to screen potential candidates and review their online presence, assessing individual profiles across networking resources such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. Given this, your ability to create a strong and consistent personal brand is crucial, especially in terms of representing your unique attributes and core qualities as a candidate for work. The evolution of social media has forced brands and individuals to coexist within a single online space, which means that each of your remote interactions can have an impact on your quest for employment.

The Need for Unique Problem-Solving Skills
According to statistics released by the Department of Labor, the average individual born in the latter years of the Baby Boom will hold more than 10 jobs in his or her lifetime. This not only offers an insight into the impact that technological advancement and economic instability has had on the employment market, but it also highlights the growing importance of transferable skills. These honed attributes can be carried from one career or job role to another, and allow you to cultivate a strong and diverse appeal as a candidate for employment. Problem solving is one of the most coveted transferable skills, as it requires the ability to listen, communicate and be proactive in pressurized situations. Forward-thinking educational bodies throughout the world are beginning to recognize the importance of problem solving as an employment skill, with students in India set to sit in on Problem Solving Assessment (PSA) exams in January 2013.

The Capacity to Learn and Embrace New Industry Innovations
The sheer pace of technological evolution is something to behold, as industries from banking to health care embrace new techniques and workplace methods. Although these innovations are often designed to improve productivity and efficiency, they require employees to be flexible in their attitudes and display a continual willingness to learn. During periods of unemployment, it is therefore crucial that you remain in touch with breaking industry trends and develop your skills accordingly. Otherwise you may find your credentials outdated in a crowded employment market. You must use your time wisely while out of work and seek out industry-relevant courses that will boost your resume, making yourself appealing to employers and showing your ability to embrace a program of continuous learning.

The Bottom Line
While academic qualifications, industry-specific accreditations and experience are all crucial in securing work, they are not enough to guarantee employment in the current economy. In an uncertain market where a higher volumes of applicants are forced to compete for a limited number of jobs, employers are also likely to evaluate their candidates' personal attributes and core employment skills. These so-called "soft" skills can be pivotal in helping you to secure an advantage over your fellow applicants, and may prove decisive in your search for permanent work.

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