Job searchers should not despair over December's relatively disappointing employment figures announced Friday. Many employers say they still need more workers, and the labor market looks so tight that a shortage may be ahead.

The Labor Department said 108,000 jobs were created last month, slightly more than half the 200,000 that economists had forecast. Nongovernment measures also showed a drop in the growth of hiring.

But this conforms to seasonal trends. At this time of year, hiring in retailing, construction and manufacturing commonly drops off.

Still, optimistic signs abound. Anyone with a mastery of online job searching and savvy networking skills should be able to land a job in the coming months.

A survey by the Society for Human Resource Management shows that employment trends remain strong. One sign: employers are paying more to hire new employees, indicating that competition for labor is rising.

Monster, the Internet job-search site, says its employment index, which tracks thousands of online job postings, remains higher than a year ago. Says a spokesman, David Resa: "We're still seeing job creation and job expansion."

According to the Society for Human Resource Management, the most popular method to find workers is online recruitment. The next most popular: referrals and personal networking.

Jessica Collison, a manager with the society, says a successful job search combines all these methods. "The right employer for you might not be looking where you are," she says. "You have to make sure that you put yourself in front of them, wherever they may be."

Jesse Harriott, a researcher with Monster, advises job seekers to start by identifying an industry they want to work in, then focusing on specific companies within it.

For example, if the demand for network-security specialists is particularly high among financial companies, target the companies in that field that offer the most opportunity. Then begin learning about those companies and making contacts at them.