Unemployment falls, underemployment still a problem

January 7, 2011 4:42:45 PM PST
Despite the drop in unemployment to just 9 percent nationwide, many are under-employed after taking lower-paying, part-time jobs.

In better economic times, job seekers may pass up job offers that may be lower paying or not long term.

It is a different time now: 44 percent of job seekers have been out of work for more then 27 weeks. It may not be a perfect fit, but some are finding benefits to doing short-term work now.

In the last two years, Lynne Rodman took a short-term job in compliance and she did a stint as a U.S. Census worker.

After a layoff in financial services, she's been glad to get part-time work.

"In the past, I would want to spend my time exclusively getting full-time work, but now I think in this situation, you have to be part of the trend to take semi-permanent, temporary or intermittent employment," Rodman said.

Rodman is among the over 3,000 people who came JVS for career counseling last year.

Clients and counselors are encouraged to see more hiring in recent months, but many of the actual positions are short term.

"A lot of temporary work or long-term contract work, not as many full-time jobs that we'd like to see," said Jennifer Kraffle, a career counselor with JVS.

While the U.S. Department of Labor is reporting the lowest unemployment in a year and a half, the numbers are not good for new jobs created -- only 103,000 last month.

"We have seen job growth, continued growth in temporary jobs. Companies are hiring as their demand grows but they're not turning those jobs into full-time, permanent jobs. Hopefully the next leg of this expansion, we'll start to see this occur," said John Challenger, an outplacement specialist with Challenger, Gray and Christmas.

For those on the job hunt, experts say despite the national statistics, now is the time to put the job search into high gear and find opportunity even if it is part-time or temporary work.

"We try and point out some of the benefits: getting to know some new people, hopefully getting some income for a while, something they may not have been receiving lately, and some new experience. It might be teaching them a new skill." Kraffle said.

"I would be very much open to taking a part-time or temporary position, but if anyone is willing to offer me a permanent one, I'm in too," Rodman said.

Rodman says the temporary jobs she's taken have enhanced her resume. She says she's met people and had experience she previously would have passed up.

There's the benefit of new contacts and proving how invaluable you are -- some of those temporary jobs are turning into full-time jobs.

To contact JVS, email vschgo@jvschicago.org