The jobs picture is pretty dismal. The official national unemployment rate is still at a relatively high 9.5% – and the underemployment rate at a more alarming 16.5%. But that’s not all of it. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are more than five applicants for every job. It now takes 35 weeks on average to get a job. And 45% of people have been out of work more than a half year. At the beginning of the recession it took 17 weeks and only 17% of people were out of work more than a half year.
Are there any bright spots? A few, says Mark Zandi of Moody’s Economy.com. Geographically: Texas – particularly Dallas and Houston because being larger cities, they have more jobs, but also Austin and San Antonio. Some of the country’s “logistical” centers, areas where there are jobs in transportation, distribution, warehousing and wholesaling, are faring well. These include Louisville, Memphis, Salt Lake City, Kansas City. Also, Boston and San Francisco because there are signs of life in technology and education.
And by Sector: Health care, educational services (although the lack of aid from the states hasn’t helped recently), manufacturing, professional services (accounting, legal aid, management consulting) and Wall Street. Zandi is also expecting to see job creation from the banks. As they start lending, he explains, we’ll see jobs in loan origination and managing credit risk. There will eventually be jobs that come back in retail, leisure and hospitality but not for the next year.
Job creation needs to ramp up, however, to bring down the unemployment rate. Right now, we are creating about 100,000 jobs a month and have added 600,000 this year. Because so many of the folks sitting on the sidelines will eventually start looking for jobs again, we need to create 150,000 a month just to stabilize the unemployment rate. And we need to create more than that to bring the rate down. Both Zandi and employment expert John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Grey and Christmas, expect that to start happening by Spring 2011.
So what do you do if you’re out of work and see few prospects?
- Look for a temporary job. According to Challenger, temporary help services have added 379,000 jobs since last fall. That was the first sign of the economy recovering. Many businesses are not yet confident enough to hire full time but they are hiring temps. And eventually some of those temps will be given full-time status.
- Take a night class. Going back to school may seem like the right move – and it is true that people with a greater level of education have been less impacted by job loss – but you don’t want to do anything that will get in the way of your search. If you take a night class that can build on your skills, you can continue going even if you get a job.
- Find an edge. It’s unfortunate, but when employers are choosing between people who’ve been out of work a month and those who have been out of work six months to a year, the person out a month often gets the nod because the employer wonders what they don’t know about the person who has been unemployed longer. That’s unfair, particularly in this economy. But you have to find a way to fill those gaps in your resume. Take on a project. Consult. Volunteer. Take that course. Most importantly – get out of the house. Taking on a physical challenge (like running a 10K or marathon) can give you the confidence you need to continue searching. Otherwise, says Challenger, inertia sets in.