A year ago Facebook teamed up with the U.S. Department of Labor, the National Assn. of Colleges and Employers, the Direct Employers Assn. and the National Assn. of State Workforce Agencies to form the Social Jobs Partnership. At the time, the coalition promised to roll out a free app that would connect job seekers with open positions.
Now with unemployment still stubbornly high and the economy sluggish, Facebook and companies that list jobs on Facebook including Branchout, JobVite and Work4 Labs have pulled together more than 1.7 million job postings in the U.S. in one spot.
Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis said the app, which lets Facebook users search job listings by keyword, type of work, industry and location, would help "get America back to work." California's unemployment rate fell to 10.2% in September.
"Nearly a year ago, the U.S. Department of Labor joined the Social Jobs Partnership to explore better ways to connect people with job information through social media. Today, we're taking an important next step with the announcement of this valuable new application," Solis said in a written statement.
The moves fueled talk that Facebook would enter the lucrative online recruiting market. But a Facebook spokesman said the Menlo Park, Calif., company is simply trying to make it easier for Facebook users to find and share job listings on Facebook.
Marne Levine, Facebook's vice president for global public policy, said in a statement that the app is part of a "broader effort to help people use social media to find jobs in the U.S."
For years analysts have speculated that Facebook would harness its massive audience to take on professional networking site LinkedIn and job hunting sites such as Monster.com. That speculation has only intensified as Wall Street cranks up the pressure on Facebook to prove it's more than a one-trick pony and can make money beyond advertising.
Facebook shares are trading at about $21 –- a far cry from the company's $38 initial public stock offering price in May. The shares jumped 10% even as Facebook insiders and early investors became eligible Wednesday to sell 804 million shares, nearly doubling the amount of stock available for trading on the public market.
LinkedIn doesn't view the new Facebook job-hunting app as a shot across its bow, a spokesman said.
"We don't see this as Facebook getting into the professional networking space," the LinkedIn spokesman said. "Facebook is aggregating jobs from various Facebook apps and putting them in one place."
LinkedIn says people still want to keep their personal and professional lives separate. That's not to say that Facebook couldn't make a bid for online recruiting in the future -- or that recruiters don't already tap Facebook. A study from the National Assn. of Colleges and Employers found that half of employers use Facebook in their hiring process.
"Recruiters know that you recruit where the people are," said Dan Finnigan, chief executive officer of Jobvite. "Facebook is the most heavily used, most engaged application on the Internet with more time spent on it than any other application."
It's also popular with young people for whom the unemployment rate is particularly high, Finnigan said.
"This will be a big opportunity for recruiters to engage the right folks where they are," he said.