2010 Call-In Survey Results

Job Seekers Frustrated, Uncertain About Job Prospects

IN SURVEY, NEARLY HALF OUT OF WORK FOR MORE THAN A YEAR

The job market made marginal improvements in 2010, but large numbers of job seekers were left out in the cold with many experiencing prolonged unemployment lasting six months or more. This fact was on display during the job-search advice call-in conducted last week by global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., with nearly 40 percent of all callers reporting that they have been out of work for more than a year.

In a random sampling of 400 callers, just over 80 percent were unemployed. Of those, 47.5 percent have been seeking employment for at least 12 months. The next largest group of jobless callers was the 19 percent who have been out of work for one to three months. Eighteen percent of the unemployed callers have been looking for four to six months.

Overall, more than 1,500 job seekers took advantage of the free advice offered during the two-day public service held December 27 and 28. This was the 25th job-search advice call-in conducted by Challenger.

The 80 percent of jobless callers was about the same level as a year ago. In 2008, 76 percent of callers were unemployed, while in 2007, only 55 percent of callers were out of work at the time of the call-in.

Despite prolonged unemployment, callers were slightly more optimistic than a year ago. Nearly one in five callers (18.4 percent) believed they would find a job in the next one to three months. Meanwhile, 21 percent felt they were with six months of finding employment. A year ago, only 12 percent thought they would find a job in three months, while another 12 percent thought a job could be found in four to six months.

Furthermore, only four percent of callers thought it would take another year or longer to find employment, down from nearly 16 percent of last year’s callers who thought it would take at least a year to find work.

While there was slightly more optimism than a year ago, the general feeling among callers was uncertainty. Nearly half (48 percent) did not know how much longer the job search would take, about the same as in 2009. Among those out of work for more than a year, the uncertainty was even more widespread, with nearly 60 percent saying they were not sure how long it would take to find employment.

“Obviously, there was a lot of frustration in callers’ voices this year. Not only were most of them out of work, many have been out of work for so long that they are losing confidence and hope. Our coaches’ primary objective was to restore some of that hope by providing some new strategies they could utilize to jump-start their job search,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

“Under the frustration, there was sense of optimism, with many feeling that 2011 would be a stronger year for the job market. And, that indeed should prove to be the case. Planned job cuts have slowed to the lowest levels we have seen since 2000. Private sector employment has experienced 11 consecutive months of net employment growth. And, companies are sitting on mountains of cash saved through two years of dramatic cost-cutting initiatives,” said Challenger.

“We expect private-sector hiring to continue to ramp up in 2011. However, this will not necessarily lead to an easier job search. In fact, it could be even more competitive. As hiring accelerates, two things will happen. First, people who abandoned their job search last year out of frustration will re-enter the labor pool as prospects improve. Second, people who are currently employed will start seeking greener pastures,” said Challenger.

“Additionally, while private sector employers are expected to increase hiring in 2011, government agencies at all levels – local, state and federal – are still feeling the impact of the recession and could be instituting massive job cuts to address significant budget deficits,” said Challenger.

Despite these challenges, Challenger said job seekers should not despair. At the moment, employers are adding just enough workers to replace people who retire, quit or let go for reasons other than cost-cutting. However, this number is not insignificant. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employers hired an average of 4.3 million workers each month between May and October.

“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 job 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, 36 percent of whom said the most difficult part of the job search is finding openings. In the same vein, another 31 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 or professional networking sites, such as 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.

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