At long last, the job market is beginning to open up. That's among the encouraging results of DBM's Workforce Predictions Survey for 2004.DBM, a human resources consulting firm, surveyed HR professionals in late 2003 and early 2004 to learn about the workforce trends they foresee this year. Approximately 51% of respondents plan to "moderately to greatly" boost hiring activity in 2004, a 35% increase from last year's survey.However, job seekers can expect this hiring process to be slow and steady. Companies are still cautious and can afford to be choosy about candidates. As such, the average job search remains in the four- to six-month range, according to the results. "It's not uncommon for a job seeker to return six or seven times for interviews before a hiring decision is made - a trend that is not likely to change in the first half of 2004,"\u00a0DBM President\u00a0Tom Silveri says. He advises job seekers to aggressively follow up with leads this quarter.And while the worst of the layoffs are probably over, companies still plan organizational changes for 2004, as reported by 52% of respondents. DBM points out that although a company may be experiencing layoffs, it may need to hire newly created positions to fit within the new structure. Similarly, previous employers might need to rehire their alumni. The advice? Keep your professional network open with co-workers and former colleagues.Finally, 67% of the HR pros surveyed expect their firms to invest in leadership development programs this year. Such moves will help companies retain staff as the economy improves.