Facebook Inc. is launching a new application to help its users in the United States hunt for jobs.
The free tool stems from a promise made a year ago by a coalition of government, employer and employee associations and Facebook to roll out an application that would help connect job seekers with open positions.
The app gives users access to more than 1.7 million job postings in the U.S. that are culled from companies that list jobs on Facebook, including Branchout, Jobvite and Work4 Labs.
The latest move has fueled talk that Facebook would enter the lucrative online recruiting market.
For years, analysts have speculated that Facebook would harness its massive audience to enter that market and 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 closed up $2.50, or nearly 13 percent, to $22.36 on Wednesday - a far cry from the company's $38 initial public stock offering price in May. The shares jumped 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.
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."
LinkedIn Corp. 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 unidentified LinkedIn spokesman said. "Facebook is aggregating jobs from various Facebook apps and putting them in one place."
LinkedIn said 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 Association 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 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.
The app was born from a coalition that was formed a year ago.
The group, known as the Social Jobs Partnership, includes Facebook, the U.S. Department of Labor, the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the DirectEmployers Association and the National Association of State Workforce Agencies.
Labor Secretary 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."
"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," Solis said in a written statement. "Today, we're taking an important next step with the announcement of this valuable new application."
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