Challenger’s 27th Annual Job Seeker Call-In Dec. 27th & 28th

As the job market continues to recover at a snail’s pace and millions of Americans struggle to overcome long-term unemployment, global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. will suspend normal business operations for two days so that its staff of professional counselors can provide free job-search advice to callers from across the country.

The firm’s 27th annual two-day national job-search call-in takes place December 27 and 28, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. CST.  The telephone number is 312-422-5010.   Continue reading

Older Job Seekers In Demand

Recent reports reveal the challenge older job seekers face in the current hiring environment, with more than one-third of those 55 and older experiencing prolonged joblessness lasting longer than a year.  However, the situation for older workers is not entirely grim.  In fact, a new analysis of employment trends reveals that this segment of the population is enjoying the strongest job gains of any age group.

The analysis of government labor data by global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. found that job seekers age 55 and older account for nearly 70 percent of the employment gains since January 1, 2010.

Overall, the number of employed Americans has increased by 4,319,000 between January 2010 and May 2012, according to household survey data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.  Older job seekers – those 55 and up – accounted for 2,998,000 or 69 percent of the total employment growth. Continue reading

2011 Job Seeker Call-In Report: Callers Frustrated, Nearly Half Out of Work Over a Year

Download the report here.

While accelerated job creation failed to materialize in 2011, callers to an annual job-search advice hotline were more optimistic than a year ago, as nearly 30 percent estimated they would find a new job within three months, up from 18 percent who said the same in 2010.

However, even as the percentage of optimistic callers surged from a year ago, so did the percent of those predicting it would take more than a year to find employment.  Ten percent of the job seekers felt the job search would last more than 12 months, compared to four percent who anticipated a prolonged job search last year.

The results are based on a random sampling of 600 callers to a job-search advice helpline offered annually by global outplacement and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.  Over the two-day event, the firm’s professional counselors helped more than 1,000 job seekers, 77 percent of whom were unemployed.  That is down only slightly from the previous two years, when 81 percent of callers were out of work.

“There was a lot more uncertainty a year ago.  Almost half of last year’s callers had no idea how long the job search would take.  This year, callers were either certain of the job market’s improvement or certain of its continued weakness,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, referring to the increase in both optimistic and pessimistic callers.

The percentage of callers expecting the job search to last 7 to 9 months increased from six percent a year ago to 14 percent this year.  The percentage expecting a 10- to 12-month job search surged to 12 percent, after peaking at 2.4 percent in 2010.

“Overall, the majority of callers – 65 percent – felt they would find a job in six months or less.  That is a pretty realistic assessment.   In a healthy economy, a successful job search might take two to three months.  In a tight job market, such as the one we are in now, it is not unusual to see even high- quality candidates take four to six months,” said Challenger.

Among the unemployed callers, 37 percent have been out of work for one to six months.  Another 14 percent have been jobless for 7 to 12 months.  As an indication of how tight the job market remains, the remaining 50 percent of callers had been jobless for a year or more, with 60 percent of these long-time job seekers out of work for two years or longer.

“Some of those out of the workforce for two or more years were retirees or stay-at-home mothers, hoping to make a return to the labor pool.  However, many were simply job seekers who have been unable to land a job.  And, when you get to that point in the job search, it is difficult to keep the frustration and negative feelings at bay, which can harm the job search further,” said Challenger.

“Our counselors’ primary objective was to restore hope by providing some new strategies to jump-start their job search.  And there is plenty of reason for hope.  Announced layoffs outside of the government sector are at levels not seen since the late 1990s.  The private sector has steadily added jobs over the past year, albeit at too slow a pace to make a significant dent in unemployment, but there definitely is hiring in this market,” said Challenger.

In fact, the latest monthly survey of employers by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that employers nationwide hired 4,040,000 new workers in October and that there were still another 3.3 million job openings at the end of the month.

“This survey has shown that employers have been hiring about four million new workers per month for several months running.  Many of these hires are to replace retirees, former workers who quit or those terminated for cause.  Whatever the reason, it is imperative that job seekers believe that they can be among the next four million people hired,” said Challenger.

“There are a lot of things people can do to improve their chances of being among those four million new hires.  The one thing they should not do is simply sit at a computer all day, responding to online help-wanted ads,” Challenger advised.

“Answering ads is just one part of the job search; and it is probably the least effective.  Classified ads, whether online or in the newspaper, represent a small fraction of the available jobs out there – perhaps as small as 20 percent.  The hidden job market, representing as much as 80 percent of the available jobs, can only be accessed through aggressive networking, cold-calling and persistence,” said Challenger.

The hidden job market is the hardest to uncover, a frustration felt by many callers, 27 percent of whom said the most difficult part of the job search is finding openings.  In the same vein, another 24 percent said the biggest challenge is getting interviews.

“A big part of a successful job search is being in the right place, at the right time.  To do this, you have to cast the widest net possible.  Your network should include friends, family, former business associates, former college professors, fellow college alumni, etc.  You basically need to broadcast to your entire universe of acquaintances that you are looking for a job,” said Challenger.

“We strongly urge job seekers to take advantage of social networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn.  Even if you can only add 10 people at first, those 10 people are each going to know at least 10 more people who know 10 more people.  You might just be two links away from someone who can get you in the door for an interview,” he concluded.

# # #

2011 CHALLENGER CALL-IN SURVEY RESULTS

Gender

2011

2010

2009

Female

54%

53.3%

50%

Male

46%

46.7%

50%

Are you unemployed?

2011

2010

2009

Yes

77%

80.8%

81%

No

23%

19.2%

19%

If unemployed, how long have you been out of work

2011

2010

1 – 3 Months

20.1%

19.1%

4 – 6 Months

16.6%

18.4%

7 – 9 Months

5.1%

8.1%

10 – 12 Months

8.6%

6.9%

More than a year

49.6%

47.5%

How long do you think it will take to find new position?

2011

2010

1 – 3 Months

28%

18.4%

4 – 6 Months

37%

21.1%

7 – 9 Months

14%

5.7%

10 – 12 Months

12%

2.4%

More than a year

10%

4.3%

Don’t know

0%

48.1%


Top Most Difficult Part of the Job Search*
Preparing the resume

5%

Getting interviews

24%

Networking

12%

Finding job openings

27%

Performing well in the interview

6%

Dealing with rejection

4%

Filling out applications

2%

Other

20%

Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

Job Seekers Relocation Rate Surges To Near Two-Year High

Relocation Surges to Near Two-Year High

9.4% OF JOB SEEKERS RELOCATE FOR NEW JOBS IN FIRST HALF OF 2011

Download the report here.

The percentage of unemployed managers and executives relocating for new positions jumped to its highest level in nearly two years, possibly signaling increased willingness by job seekers to take a loss on the sale of their home. Similarly, the increase may indicate willingness by employers to help the newly hired relocate.

Over the first two quarters of 2011, an average of 9.4 percent of job seekers finding employment relocated for their new positions. That is up from an average relocation rate of 7.6 percent during the same period a year ago, according to the latest Challenger Job Market Index, a quarterly survey by global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

The percentage of job seekers relocating plunged in the wake of the housing market collapse. Beginning with the fourth quarter of 2009 through the end of 2010, the quarterly relocation rate averaged just 7.5 percent. In fact, the 7.5 percent rate averaged in 2010 was the lowest annual average since the firm began tracking job-seeker relocation in 1986.

“The 9.4 percent relocation rate in the first half of 2011 is still low by historical standards, but the increase does indicate that job seekers are finally beginning to loosen the stakes that have kept them tethered to a specific region,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Prior to the recession, job seekers were significantly more open to relocation. From the first quarter of 2005 through the third quarter of 2007, just before the recession began, an average of 16.1 percent of those finding employment each quarter relocated for the new positions.

Relocation began to sink along with the economy in the last quarter of 2007. From the fourth quarter of 2007 through the end of 2008, the average relocation rate dropped to 11.5 percent. It rebounded to an average of 15.3 percent over the first three quarters of 2009, only to fall off a cliff at the end of 2009 through 2010, when the housing market continued to weaken, even as other segments of the economy began to slowly improve.

“Since there has been little improvement in the housing market in 2011, one might conclude that the increased relocation in the first half of the year is due to the fact that prolonged unemployment is compelling more job seekers to relocate, despite the challenges of selling a home in this market. At some point, the job seeker may simply conclude that it is worth taking a loss on a home sale to get back on the payroll,” said Challenger.

“Banks have also been a little more willing to work with financially distressed homeowners on renegotiating the terms of the mortgage, making it possible for the unemployed to sell their home and relocate.”

According to Challenger, the employment situation is beginning to slowly improve in a growing number of cities across the country, which may keep relocation rates relatively low in the coming quarters as job seekers are better able to find positions without moving.

“However, at the moment, there are definitely parts of the country that are recovering faster than others. Job seekers who are willing to expand their searches to other states and cities are significantly improving the chances of success by opening themselves up to a much wider number of opportunities. Basically, when you cast a wider net, you are more likely to catch more fish,” he said.

The latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that in June 26 states saw nonfarm payroll employment grow, with the biggest gains coming in Texas, California, Michigan and Minnesota. Between those four states alone, payrolls experienced a net gain of 92,000 new workers.

As of May, according to the Bureau’s latest data on metropolitan employment, 42 cities had unemployment rates below 6.0 percent. Another 49 had unemployment rates between 6.0 percent and 7.0 percent.

“Texas may be one of the best targets for job seekers considering relocation. It is booming right now, thanks to having a good mix of the types of industries that are currently doing the best in this recovery, including technology, health care and energy. They are luring employers from other states with low taxes and other incentives, so it will need to continuously expand its available labor force,” said Challenger.

“The job market in Texas and other states are expected to continue improving in 2011. However, if these state economies improve faster than their housing markets, current relocation rates will be unable to provide enough supply of workers to meet demand. This could ultimately be the biggest obstacle to achieving lower unemployment,” warned Challenger.

“Demand for new workers is not at a level that would force companies to bring in talent from outside their region. However, as the local talent pool starts to become depleted as the economy improves, companies will be compelled to cast a wider recruiting net. Unfortunately, the immobility of the workforce may mean that some employers will have to delay expansion plans, thus slowing the recovery,” he said.

“There have been a few examples of employers paying for the most talented candidates’ relocation costs, including covering any losses incurred by selling a home that is under water. However, those examples are few and far between, as most companies continue to keep a tight rein on costs.

“As the economy continues to improve, more large companies might have the financial ability to increase their relocation budgets and help offset the difference between the home value and selling price. However, small- and medium-size companies, where most of the new job growth is expected to occur, probably will be unable to cover the costs of relocation and make up for a candidate’s lost home value,” said Challenger.

The Challenger Job Market Index is based on a quarterly survey of approximately 3,000 job seekers, many of whom are managers and executives, from a wide range of industries and occupations nationwide.

# # #

Percentage of Job Seekers Relocating

1986 – 2011

Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 ANN AVG
1986 45.0% 43.0% 40.0% 39.0% 41.8%
1987 37.0% 32.0% 34.0% 35.0% 34.5%
1998 37.0% 36.0% 34.0% 36.0% 35.8%
1989 35.0% 36.0% 31.0% 32.0% 33.5%
1990 30.0% 34.0% 31.0% 27.0% 30.5%
1991 30.0% 28.0% 26.3% 21.0% 26.3%
1992 30.2% 28.3% 28.2% 20.5% 26.8%
1993 36.4% 49.2% 30.5% 25.0% 35.3%
1994 20.5% 21.3% 15.5% 24.7% 20.5%
1995 17.1% 17.2% 20.4% 24.1% 19.7%
1996 19.4% 20.5% 29.1% 24.1% 23.3%
1997 19.8% 21.5% 18.7% 20.1% 20.0%
1998 18.3% 27.1% 23.3% 23.7% 23.1%
1999 25.5% 25.3% 22.4% 25.9% 24.8%
2000 20.4% 21.6% 23.5% 26.2% 22.9%
2001 17.1% 16.6% 17.3% 17.0% 17.0%
2002 14.0% 12.1% 15.8% 15.2% 14.3%
2003 15.1% 14.9% 12.9% 12.7% 13.9%
2004 13.2% 16.5% 14.9% 14.2% 14.7%
2005 16.0% 16.4% 16.2% 15.2% 16.0%
2006 16.4% 18.2% 16.1% 15.4% 16.5%
2007 16.6% 15.4% 15.6% 11.0% 14.7%
2008 8.9% 11.4% 13.4% 12.6% 11.6%
2009 14.4% 18.2% 13.4% 7.3% 13.3%
2010 7.4% 7.7% 6.9% 8.4% 7.6%
2011 9.3% 9.5% 9.4%

Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

Job Seekers Can Enjoy Real Tax Breaks

The number of unemployed Americans reached record levels in 2010, with many experiencing prolonged joblessness lasting six months or more.  And, while more than 14 million people continue to look for employment, some might find a measure of financial solace in the several tax breaks for which they are likely to become eligible as a result of their employment situation.

With the April 15 tax deadline less than one month away, the nation’s taxpayers should make themselves aware of the many tax credits and deductions available to workers, freelancers and job seekers, advises employment authority John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

“There are so many tax rules and they seem to change every year or two.  It is undoubtedly an overwhelming task for most people to sift through all of the materials to figure out eligibility for a particular deduction or credit.  For the unemployed it can be even more daunting, since their top priority is to find a job, not a tax credit,” said Challenger.

The Internal Revenue Service will see a record number of filings from taxpayers who were unemployed at some point in 2010.  In January of last year, the number of unemployed Americans reached 16,147,000, the highest level in Bureau of Labor Statistics data going back to 1948.  Over the course of the year, unemployment averaged 14,825,000, the highest annual average on record.

Making matters worse for the nation’s jobless was the fact that on average there were 6.4 million people every month who were unemployed for 27 weeks or more, which is also a record high annual average.

“Obviously, prolonged unemployment has significant implications on one’s income tax.  In most cases, it is going to lower the burden.  Many people will be able to lower the burden even further, for example, if they took continuing education classes to keep their skills fresh, traveled for job interviews or maintained a home office to complete freelance assignments,” said Challenger.

The unemployed are not the only ones who can enjoy tax credits.  Full- and part-time workers have a wide variety of deductions they can consider when completing their taxes.  Most fall under miscellaneous deductions, which allow taxpayers to claim eligible expenses that exceed two percent of adjusted gross income.

For instance, workers who have numerous unreimbursed business expenses can deduct them from their taxes.  Some of the unreimbursed employee expenses that may be eligible for deduction include dues paid to professional societies; depreciation on a computer or cell phone required by an employer; licenses and regulatory fees; home office used regularly and exclusively in one’s work; subscriptions to professional journals and trade magazines; travel, transportation, entertainment and gift expenses related to one’s work; union dues and expenses; and work-related education. 

Miscellaneous deductions exceeding two percent of adjusted gross income can also be applied to job-search expenses.

“Most people looking for jobs will not reach the two percent expense level from job-search costs alone.  The exception might be those who have been jobless for an extended period and those looking for jobs out of town,” said Challenger.

“Those who are having difficulty finding new employment are more apt to extend their job search to other regions.  Trips to interview with prospective employers significantly increase job-hunting expenses if companies do not reimburse for travel,” Challenger said.

Travel expenses, including airfare, lodging, rental car, parking, food, tolls, taxis, bus and rail costs are deductible as long as the trip relates primarily to seeking new employment in a person’s current trade or business.

Additionally, typical job hunting costs, such as typing, photocopying, printing, postage, stationery and special envelopes, are also deductible.  Items associated with the job hunt, such as file folders, appointment schedulers, computers and fax machines, can be deducted as well. 

Those who ended up relocating for a position may also be able to deduct expenses related to the move. 

There are also deductions related to medical expenses and health insurance premiums paid by independent contractors and freelancers.  Additionally, the long-term unemployed forced to dip into their retirement savings may be able to avoid some of the penalties associated with early withdrawal. 

For additional and detailed explanations on all work- and education-related deductions, including those related to the job search and maintaining a home office, Challenger advises taxpayers to visit the Internal Revenue Service website (www.irs.gov) or seek the counsel of a professional tax advisor or accountant.

Social networking not the key to a job

Human resources industry publication Workforce Management (www.workforce.com) included this handy pie chart in the most recent edition of its e-newsletter on recruiting.  For job seekers, it would not be a bad idea to seek out publications that target human resource executives and recruiters in particular, in order to obtain valuable insight on how they approach the process of finding the right people for their companies.

This chart is especially enlightening.  More and more job seekers are under the impression that the key to success is simply opening a LinkedIn account.  LinkedIn and other social/professional networking sites certainly have their place in the job search.  However, they represent just one tool in the job seeker’s toolbox.  As you can see in these charts, social networking and social media is increasingly used as a way to find potential candidates, but the percentage of actual hires that resulted from those social media efforts is still very low.

Young People Should Avoid Common Job Search Mistakes

Looking for your first job is exciting, scary and often frustrating; all rolled up into one revealing experience.  There is no doubt that during this time you will learn a lot about yourself and your resiliency.  It may be the first time in your life you have had to analyze yourself in terms of your strengths, weaknesses and how you can benefit a prospective employer.

The entry-level job market is beginning to improve, but only slightly.  It will remain a fiercely competitive environment for at least another year or two.  Young people will vie for jobs with others at their age and experience level, as well as with recent layoff victims who have the advantage of on-the-job experience.

In this competitive atmosphere, young job seekers should strive to avoid the common job search mistakes that could put them at more of a disadvantage.  Following are some of the most common mistakes and how to correct them. Continue reading

Should Job Seekers Heed Jobs Data?

Job Seekers Receive Mixed Signals

New claims for unemployment increased at a higher-than-expected rate last week, according to a report out today, which may deflate confidence among job seekers who were starting to regain hope about their employment prospects.   At the same time, however, a separate report showed that the index of leading indicators rose in January for the seventh consecutive month, signaling a continuation of the expansion into 2011.  So, which report is correct?  The weekly jobless claims report is notoriously volatile and is impacted by unforeseeable factors such as weather.  The report on leading indicators and other macro-perspectives of the economy and job market, including the monthly employment situation report, give the view from 30,000 feet.  For job seekers to gauge what is happening in their area, it may be necessary to ignore the national reports and just look around, says John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.  Do you see more “help wanted” signs?  Are the roads more congested during rush hour?  Is the lot at the commuter train station fuller than it was six months ago?  Are you starting to hear about more friends and acquaintances finding new jobs?  These are the things job seekers should be watching for at the ground level.  Why should job seekers basically ignore any news reports they see about the national and local job market? What can job seekers do to jump-start their search if they seem to have hit a dead end? 

A FEW TIPS:

To Find a Job

Remain Positive.  It is easy to get discouraged.  Much of the job news is negative and the job search itself, even in the best economy, is full of rejection.  It is important to remember that companies are hiring, to the tune of approximately four million new workers per month. 

Join LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, et al.  More employers are seeking candidates and advertising positions through social and professional networking sites.  These sites also offer effective means of expanding one’s network.  It is critical to create a professional profile and remember that even status updates can be seen by potential employers.  Do not post anything that might eliminate you from the running.

Get involved with community service group.  This is a great way to build your network as well as hone your professional skills. 

Join a professional/trade association.  These organizations can provide training and education opportunities and most hold several networking functions every year.  The dues are worth their weight in gold if you meet a person at an event who can help you find a new job.

Meet 10 new people in your field but outside of your company.  Building these relationships may help you in your current position and they will definitely help when you enter the job market.

Rev up your skills.  Build upon your established skill set.  Explore online courses and local certificate programs to broaden your industry knowledge, increasing your marketability to a variety of employers.

Middle-Aged Career Change

Q. I am a middle aged woman with a M.S. in Education, interested in a career change.  What advice can you provide?

A. Changing careers is difficult and the farther you attempt to get away from your current profession, the more difficult it becomes.  Making the switch from a teacher to a registered nurse or accountant, for example, would require a return to school and starting at the bottom rung of that profession’s career ladder.  This type of dramatic career change is more realistic for someone in the first five years of his or her career.  For someone with 10-20 years, such a change is far less tenable.

For the mid- to late-career professionals, the key is to take the fundamental skills and experience you have gained and transfer them to another industry or another area within your chosen career.  In the case of our teacher, her masters in education opens up a lot of opportunities beyond the traditional classroom setting.  Regardless of the teacher’s subject area, through her education, training and experience, she has the fundamental tools necessary to teach.  Those skills can be used to develop and/or deliver training material and programs to other teachers or to employees in a corporation, for example.  They can be used in for-profit education firms that provide tutoring and other tailored education programs to young people who are either trying to catch up or get ahead.  Continue reading