Seventy-five percent of working-age Americans are "job seekers" -- they're currently looking for or open to a new job -- according to an online survey of more than 2,100 people released this week by the hiring software company Jobvite.
Among the employed respondents to the 2012 Social Job Seeker Survey, 69 percent said they were either "actively seeking" a new job or "open to" a new job. That number is up from 61 percent in Jobvite's 2011 survey.
But the lingering effects of the Great Recession continue to color opinions of the job market. More than 60 percent of respondents felt that finding a job had become "somewhat harder" or "much harder" over the past year.
Recent unemployment figures suggest that people's opinions are somewhat bleaker than the reality of the job market. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the economy has added approximately 146,000 jobs a month in 2012, as opposed to 153,000 a month in 2011.
The Jobvite survey also asked how those job seekers use social networking sites. It found that 88 percent maintain at least one online profile, and that when it's time to change jobs, many use their social networking accounts to hunt for a new position. More than half (52 percent) reported having used Facebook to look for a job, while 38 percent have used the more business-oriented LinkedIn, and 34 percent have looked for work with the aid of Twitter.
The findings underscore how significant online social networks, first developed a decade ago to connect friends on college campuses, have become to people's professional lives. In the Jobvite survey, 15 percent of job seekers named social media as the primary reason they found their current job.
Plenty of employers, too, are asking job applicants about their Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn pages. In the 2012 survey, one in four job seekers (23 percent) reported having been asked for the details of a social media account during a job interview.
So what do recruiters hope to see when they visit an applicant's Facebook page? It's actually more about what they don't want to see. In a separate 2012 Jobvite survey of recruiters, 78 percent said they would react negatively to content about illegal drug use, 66 percent felt the same way about profanity, and 54 percent would frown on sexual content. On the flip side, 80 percent said that membership in a professional organization would reflect positively on a job seeker.
Jobvite CEO Dan Finnigan said he expects the overlap between social networks and job hunting to increase even more in the coming years.
"Job seekers ... intuitively know that the best opportunities are found through people, not search engines," Finnigan told Forbes. "As social networking has become a core part of our cultural dynamic, we are continuing to see more and more job hunters taking advantage of a vertical they are comfortable with in order to find work."
Respondents to the Jobvite survey came from a group of individuals who had previously agreed to participate in online surveys. The data were weighted so the survey's demographics closely tracked the nationwide population of adults with respect to gender, age and region.