Staffing firms in the North Bay have been reporting for most of 2010 that their placements have been rising sharply, especially compared to a dismal 2009.

The hiring, however, was primarily for temporary workers as businesses strained to keep up with demand but hesitated to make long-term commitments because of pervasive economic uncertainty.

But now a report by Robert Half International contains some encouraging indications that the hiring strike by employers is waning.

Half’s Professional Employment Report found 6 percent of executives planned to increase staffing levels in the fourth quarter, double the rate in the third quarter.

Half found strength in business services, legal, social media and accounting professions as well as health care. In the accounting industry, for instance, more firms said they were hiring than those that were not, the first increase in two years.

“The indication is we are going to move in a positive direction,” said Robert Half Regional Vice President Michael Lusby.

Although figures for the North Bay were not broken out, Mr. Lusby said 7 percent of hiring managers in the Pacific Region expect an increase in staffing levels, the second highest in the nation.

Even with this positive news, the overall employment picture is unlikely to turn around soon enough to return one of 10 workers to the work force. Most experts expect it will be many months if not years before the U.S. economy returns to full employment.

Meanwhile, policy makers can make the road back to a strong job market smoother by removing much of the uncertainty in health care, financial regulation, trade and taxes that is discouraging investment and risk taking.

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Final word: Sacramento has a well-deserved reputation for inaction. Just witness this year’s latest budget disaster.

But occasionally, it gets something right and credit should be given where it is due.

That is so with the passage of SB 1440, which will provide some long-overdue curriculum standards for students transferring from community colleges to the California State University system.

As it stood, varying requirements among campuses resulted in duplication of effort by both students and schools.

The bill provides the kind of clarity students deserve and should result in more students completing degrees in a more timely fashion.

That’s a plus for all of California.