Trying to Make Sense of the Job Market and Employment Outlooks

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by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.

Whether you are highly educated or not, whether your skills and accomplishments are in demand or not, whether you are young or old, whether you live on the West Coast or the East Coast, whether you are white or any other color, whether you are a man or a woman, whether the economy is weak or strong… none of these things matter — and all of them matter — in the crazy and challenging job market we face today — and for the foreseeable future.

How strange is this job market? Consider these employment facts:

  • The time the average jobless worker remains unemployed is now at 32 weeks, the longest it’s been since the early 1980s, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • More than two-fifths (43 percent) of unemployed workers (about 6.4 million people) have been out of work for more than 27 weeks (six months or more); and more than half (58 percent) of unemployed workers (8.6 million people) have been out of work for 15 weeks or longer.
  • Economists are now predicting that the U.S. employment picture may not fully recover until 2015, as weaker economic growth slows job creation and hiring.
  • Generation X workers (born between 1965 and 1975) have been the hardest hit group, squeezed at the top from Baby Boomers who refuse to retire or step aside and knocked at the bottom by Generation Y workers who work for much smaller wages.
  • But new college grads are not faring well either. The number of unemployed workers between the ages of 20 and 24 is 1.4 million, up a staggering 60 percent from four years ago.
  • Women have fared slightly better than men in terms of staying employed, but both sexes have seen a decline in employment rates.
  • While two-income families now make up the majority of U.S. households (at about 42 percent according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics), many of those households have faced layoffs of one or both wage-earners.
  • Some of the hardest hit occupations include construction workers, manufacturing workers, farming and natural-resource workers, and productions and transportation workers.
  • Some of the hardest hit industries include construction, wholesale and retail trade, manufacturing, and information technology.
  • White-collar professionals now comprise one-fifth of all unemployed workers, double the rate from a decade ago.
  • Workers with less education have been the hardest hit, with a 14.6 percent unemployment rate for workers with less than a high-school diploma, 9.7 percent unemployment for high-school grads, 8.6 percent with some college, and 5.2 percent with college degree or more, and 3.9 percent with a master’s degree. (All 2009 data from BLS.)
  • Education is no guarantee, though. According to the Economic Policy Institute, 18.1 percent of the long-term unemployed have college degrees, up substantially from years past.

Overcoming the Bad Employment News

How does an unemployed person who wants to work find a job in this market? With a detailed job-search strategy, a clear picture of past accomplishments, a focus on specific jobs and employers, a superior resume, a large network of contacts, and a determination to achieve one or more job-search activities (talking to a contact, sending out a resume, going on an interview) every day. More than ever, only those job-seekers who know the rules of good job-hunting — and are ready to persevere — will receive any job offers.

Here are some specific steps, along with some links to resources that can help you even more.

  1. Determine what you want to do next. Are you looking for another job in your current career, considering a career change, or something more drastic? Be realistic in what you can accomplish — and in your expectations. Job-seekers need a clear focus and clear job objective. If you were downsized or fired, now is the time to get over the trauma and move forward with your life. Resources:
  2. Determine where you want to live. Are you staying put, or are you considering starting over in a new community? See our Relocation Resources.
  3. Develop a list of potential employers and begin mapping out a strategy for networking your way into these companies.
  4. Get your resume into perfect shape. A strong resume immediately informs the employer what you offer as a job-seeker by being focused on a specific job and providing quantified (wherever possible) results and accomplishments. You should also have different versions of your resume — for networking, job fairs, emailing, and Web postings. You should also have specific resumes for each job that interests you — assuming there is more than one. Resources:
  5. Use your current network while continually building it. Get everyone you know involved in your job search by sharing your resume, but don’t stop there. Join more associations and professional organizations and build that network. Use your college’s (and/or high school’s) alumni database to make connections and rekindle acquaintances. The larger — and stronger — your network of contacts, the more job opportunities you’ll discover. Resources:
  6. Use other more traditional job-hunting methods also. Spend some time job-hunting on the Internet, going to company career centers and niche job sites that make sense for your industry and occupation. Consider working with a recruiter. Consider a targeted direct mail campaign. Resources:
  7. Continue polishing the other key tools of job-hunting. Work on your cover letters. Prepare and practice interviewing. Research salary information. Resources:
  8. Don’t stop. Accomplish at least one job-search activity daily. If you hit a wall or have a setback, brush it off and move forward. Resources:

And Stay Involved
And if you are currently unemployed, don’t spend all your time job-hunting; instead, make sure some of your time is career-productive by getting additional training or education; by temping, consulting or freelancing; or by volunteering. Employers do not like to see gaps on resumes, so find a way to stay involved in your career field. Staying involved will also have the side benefit of expanding your network, possibly opening more doors for you in the future.

Final Thoughts on Finding a New Job

If you’re struggling with your job-search, don’t give up as many others have. If you have done everything mentioned in this article and you are still unemployed, consider career counseling or career coaching. Many local communities offer free or low-cost career and job counseling. And you can find a directory of experienced and excellent career coaches in our Directory of Life and Career Coaches.

Some Positive Employment News…

Fastest Growing Industries

  • Healthcare, Social Assistance Services: 4 million new jobs by 2018
  • Professional, scientific, Technical Services.: 2.7 million new jobs by 2018
  • Educational Services: 1.7 million new jobs by 2018

Fastest Growing Occupation Categories

  • Professional and related occupations: 5.2 million new jobs by 2018
  • Service occupations: 14.5 million new jobs by 2018
  • Office and administrative support occupations: 1.8 million new jobs by 2018
  • Management, business, and financial occupations: 1.7 million new jobs by 2018
  • Sales and related occupations: 980,400 new jobs by 2018
  • Transportation and material moving occupations: 391,100 new jobs by 2018

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms. Founder Dr. Randall Hansen Dr. Randall S. Hansen is founder of Quintessential Careers, one of the oldest and most comprehensive career development sites on the Web, as well CEO of He is also founder of and He is publisher of Quintessential Careers Press, including the Quintessential Careers electronic newsletter, QuintZine. Dr. Hansen is also a published author, with several books, chapters in books, and hundreds of articles. He’s often quoted in the media and conducts empowering workshops around the country. Finally, Dr. Hansen is also an educator, having taught at the college level for more than 15 years. Visit his personal Website or reach him by email at randall(at) Check out Dr. Hansen on GooglePlus.

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