A new report from Robert Half looks into two different job markets—one in which unemployment is high and it's difficult to find a job and one in which employers can't fill highly skilled positions. (Photo: Staff)

Despite the attention that the high unemployment rate has gotten in recent years, a recent study shows a more complex situation—”a tale of two job markets.”

“High general unemployment is obscuring the fact that specialized talent is in short supply, leading to candidate shortages—especially in technology and finance,” according to the report from Robert Half, which is a staffing agency with a Chattanooga office. “The persistent drumbeat about high unemployment does not apply to many professional-level jobs employers are trying to fill.”

In the tale of two job markets, there is one in which people with lower education levels are more broadly unemployed.

But in the other market, the unemployment rate has hovered at a level typical of a stable economy.

According to the report, the unemployment rate for college-degreed workers 25 and older is about half of the current unemployment rate.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported earlier this month that the economy added 120,000 jobs in March, down from more than 200,000 in each of the previous three months.

The national unemployment rate fell to 8.2 percent, the lowest since January 2009.

According to the Robert Half survey, there are several factors that contribute to a shortage of candidates with specialized skills.

U.S. payrolls have increased. Last year, the economy added 1.6 million jobs. That’s the most since 2006, according to the report.

Since the recession officially ended in 2009, companies have picked up hiring. There were 3.5 million job openings in February 2012. That’s a 46 percent increase since the end of the recession.

Jobs are open for long periods of time. Forty percent of firms whose leaders were planning to hire had openings for six month or more because they couldn’t find ideal candidates.

And job seekers are becoming more optimistic—2.1 million professionals voluntarily left their jobs in February of this year.

Salaries for some positions are increasing, but jobs are still going unfilled, according to the report.

“The candidates [that professional-level job employers] seek often have secure jobs or are weighing multiple employment options,” according to the report. “As a result, firms must offer competitive salaries and move quickly to recruit top talent.”

Updated @ 7:56 a.m. on 05/01/12 for clarity.