Tara Miller

Tara Miller, an account executive at Himmelrich PR in Meadow Mill, was able to leave her job at a museum in Washington, D.C., for one in Baltimore when the economy began improving. She started her new job the end of April. (Baltimore Sun photo by Kim Hairston / May 18, 2011)

A year ago, Washington marketing associate Tara Miller felt lucky just to have a job in her field.

So while she wanted to work in Baltimore — where she could be closer to her boyfriend — Miller stayed put at her job in D.C.

But by March of this year, she was feeling antsy.

"I was poking around and ended up seeing some openings," including an account executive position at Himmelrich PR in Baltimore, Miller said.

"I threw in my resume and ended up getting it," she said. "Now I can say I have a job I always wanted."

As hiring begins to pick up, workers who held onto low-paying, unfulfilling or bad jobs through the recession are starting to test the job market, workplace experts say.

"It's no secret there's a lot of pent-up frustration in the workplace and that many … employees have been floating their resume," said Ron Sims, head of the talent management practice in the Mid-Atlantic region for Right Management, a division of ManpowerGroup.

As the number of openings increases — the job-search website CareerBuilder.com said postings in May had jumped 10 percent over the previous year — surveys show that employers are increasingly worried about losing top talent.

One-third of employers are concerned that top performers will look for new jobs as the economy improves, CareerBuilder reported in its second-quarter forecast. Fourteen percent said top employees had left in the first quarter.

Nearly a third of workers, meanwhile, are planning to look for a new job, CareerBuilder reports.

"We do know from past recessions and post-recessions that as more jobs become more plentiful, there's more movement, and as there is more movement there is more turnover for each individual organization," said Beth N. Carvin, chief executive of Nobscot Corp., which works with employers to retain workers.

Carvin says up to 60 percent of currently employed workers could be waiting for a new opportunity elsewhere.

Although the rate of voluntary turnover hasn't returned to prerecession levels, Carvin said, "the creeping-up effect is what really makes you look."

"Even when you're talking about a 2 percent difference, that's a lot of people … who are leaving that weren't leaving before. Turnover is one of those unspoken numbers. There's no spot for it on your balance sheet, but millions of dollars get spent on this."

That's not to say that happy days are here again for workers.

While corporations have posted double-digit increases in profits for several quarters, they have been slow to hire new workers. The U.S. unemployment rate remains high at 9 percent.

Maryland has lost more than 6,000 jobs over the past six months, government figures show. Defense contractor Northrop Grumman Corp. and Superfresh's parent company recently announced layoffs or buyouts of hundreds of workers.

At the same time, the U.S. Department of Labor has reported an uptick in job turnover. The annual rate increased to 18 percent in February, up from 15.6 percent in February 2010.

Katherine Carter knows the frustration of a dead-end job. The 30-year-old Owings Mills woman worked for four years at a nonprofit in Washington. After the first year, it became clear that budget constraints would keep most of the staff from getting raises or promotions.