Nearly 40 percent of surveyed business managers said they are willing to pay more for top job candidates than they were a year ago.

Survey results, announced Tuesday by employment services giant Robert Half International, found that 38 percent of the executives were willing to negotiate higher salaries. The results offered one more sign that the economy may be finally loosening up, job counselors said.

The counselors suggested job candidates do their homework on industry pay and evaluate what they really want from the job before deciding what they are truly worth. They also advised that qualified job applicants not sell themselves short just because the economy is still on somewhat shaky ground. The economy is improving.

Minnesota's unemployment rate fell in December to 5.7 percent, the lowest level in three years. National unemployment is 8.5 percent, the lowest rate since February 2009.


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