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U.S. Jobs Scarce, Workers Still Optimistic

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The U.S. unemployment rate once again reached a high of 6 percent in December 2002 — peaking as it did in April and November — but prior to 2002, the 6 percent figure was last seen in August 1994, according to the U.S. Department of Labor (DoL).

The soaring unemployment rate could make it difficult for the 35 percent of respondents to a 4Q 2002 survey by who indicated that they plan to change jobs in 2003.

Of those planning to change jobs, 59 percent were dissatisfied with opportunities for career advancement with their current employer; 58 percent of these workers who plan to change jobs were dissatisfied with their pay; 50 percent also stated that they worked under a great deal of stress, and overall, 38 percent of these workers planning to change jobs in 2003 were dissatisfied with their jobs in general.

“It is not surprising that a considerable amount of workers are planning to make a change to find a better job in 2003,” said Dawn Haden, senior career expert at CareerBuilder. “But, despite their dissatisfaction with their jobs, 47 percent of workers still felt that they were maintaining a balance of work and life. On a more positive note, five-in-ten workers were satisfied with the experience that they are getting on the job.”

The CareerBuilder survey also revealed that retail workers were more dissatisfied with their jobs as compared to workers in other industries. Overall, 36 percent of retail workers indicated that they were dissatisfied as compared to 29 percent of workers in other industries. Additionally, only 42 percent of retail workers reported satisfaction with their jobs, and nearly 59 percent of retail workers indicated that they were dissatisfied with their pay.

As a reaction to the high level of unemployment, 18 percent of the more than 1,300 New York job seekers who responded to a New York Times Job Market Research survey conducted in December 2002 indicated that they would make a career change, while 16 percent were weathering the uncertain economy by working an additional part-time job.

Other responses were:

  • Going back to school or taking classes: 15 percent
  • Obtaining financial help/loan from family: 13 percent
  • Collecting unemployment insurance: 10 percent
  • Running up high credit card bills: 10 percent
  • Starting a business: 7 percent
  • Volunteering: 7 percent
  • Enjoying the time off from working: 6 percent
  • Taking a bank loan: 6 percent
  • Working as a consultant: 6 percent
  • Working overtime at current job: 3 percent
  • Cutting back on expenses: 2 percent

Despite employment and economic uncertainty, job seekers and employers were remaining optimistic about the future. “Employers expect improvements in 2003 across the board and many are already planning to hire,” said Carl Haacke, economist for The New York Times Job Market. “Given employers’ hiring expectations, job seekers may be in for a pleasant surprise this year.”

Pre-9/11 employment projections from the DoL for the 2000-2010 decade indicated a 15 percent increase in the jobforce, with notable growth in IT positions. Of the top 10 fastest growing occupations, eight are computer-related: computer software engineers, applications; computer support specialists; computer software engineers, systems software; network and computer systems administrators; network systems and data communications analysts; desktop publishers; database administrators; and computer systems analysts.

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