"The employment situation did see some improvement in 2011. Employers in the private sector have added 1.7 million workers to their payrolls since January 1 and, last month, the unemployment rate fell to its lowest level since March 2009," said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
"Unfortunately, the recovery has a long way to go with more than 13 million Americans out of work, another 6.6 million who have abandoned the job search but still want a job, and nearly 5.7 million who have been unemployed for six months or longer," he added.
Challenger expects the job market to continue its slow but steady improvement in 2012. Planned job-cut announcements tracked monthly by Challenger's firm are up slightly from 2010, but still well below recession levels. Through the end of November, employers announced 564,297 planned job cuts, compared to 497,969 over the same period in 2010. In contrast, employers announced 1,242,936 by November 2009.
While job cuts have slowed significantly, job growth remains frustratingly slow. Many job seekers have concluded that there are opportunities and have abandoned the job search entirely. However, while it may seem as if no one is hiring, nothing could be further from the truth.
In September alone, employers hired 4,245,000 new workers, according the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Job Openings and Labor Turnover survey. There were another 3,354,000 job openings at the end of the month. The impact of this is somewhat offset by the fact that total separations (including voluntary and involuntary) totaled 4,149,000 in September.
"It is important to remember that the employment market is a fluid environment – it is constantly changing. Not every job loss is due to cost cutting. About half of the separations in September were people quitting their jobs. Another 330,000 retired, transferred to new locations, or left due to disability. Some are let go as part of layoffs, but many are let go for cause or because they simply were not a good fit for the job. In many cases, companies are seeking replacements for those who leave voluntarily as well as those who are asked to leave," said Challenger.
"Part of a successful job search is being in the right place at the right time. We try to provide callers with some strategies that will increase the odds of them being in the best position when job openings do materialize," said Challenger.
"It is critical to aggressively build and take advantage of one's professional and social networks. Let everyone know that you are seeking a position. When more people know, the greater your chances of hearing about new opportunities, meeting the right people and getting a foot in the door," he added.
"One of the most common complaints we hear from callers year-after-year is that they have sent out hundreds of resumes and responded to dozens of online and newspaper help-wanted ads and never hear back from anyone.
"Unfortunately, simply posting resumes on Internet job sites and answering classified ads rarely work, even in a good job market. These activities are even less effective in a weak job market. Under current conditions, it is critical that job seekers expand their job search through networking. Job seekers may also want to consider expanding their parameters to include a wide variety of industries, companies and cities. Do not rule out companies that are struggling, as they are looking for talented individuals who can help turn around the business," Challenger advised.
As an outplacement firm, Challenger, Gray & Christmas provides job-search training and transition counseling to individuals who have been laid off. The firm's services are typically available only to those who receive outplacement benefits from their former employer. The two-day call-in is the only time that anyone in the general public can take advantage of Challenger's job-search expertise.