Economic recovery, inflation, unemployment statistics - you've heard the numbers mentioned on the news, and listened to economists try to make sense of them. Unemployment is still hovering close to 10%, and you probably know some people that are part of this statistic. What does it all mean to you, though? Here are some effects unemployment statistics have on your employment situation. (For related reading, also take a look at Mass Layoffs: The Hardest-Hit States.)
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You watched those pink slips being handed out, and you wonder: Am I next? Mass layoffs - when companies shed 50 or more people from their workforce - were down compared to previous months in December of 2010, which is good news. However, the layoffs are not over yet, with food service and manufacturing employees being hit hard by job losses at the end of last year.
What does this mean to you? If you are in manufacturing, food service or seasonal employment sectors, expect your job security to continue to be shaky. With high unemployment comes fierce competition for jobs, and this is often accompanied by lower wages and tougher work conditions. Don't consider your job secure if you're in a cubicle - now is the time to pay attention to how your company's bottom line looks in this still-rough economy. Look at balance sheets, and pay attention to warning signs that business may be slowing.
Length of Unemployment
Are you one of those close to 10% of people struggling with unemployment, wondering how long you'll be between jobs? The average length of unemployment is 34.2 weeks - that's about eight months - and this stretch is not easy to weather for even the most financially stable among us. Are you financially prepared for being out of a job this long? If you're still employed, but feel the chill of layoffs down your neck, you may want to sock away some money to cover expenses. Keep in touch with friends and former coworkers who might be able to help you in your job search, and keep your resume updated. You can beat those lengthy unemployment statistics by being prepared for sudden unemployment.
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Level of Pay
Groceries are getting more expensive every week it seems, and household bills like power and heat are steadily rising. You could really use a pay raise to help pay for the necessities of life - so what are your chances of getting a hike in pay? National statistics don't look good: Private industry workers saw a rise in pay of just 2% over the past year, which just about covers the rise in the Consumer Price Index. The short of it is that pay is stagnant and will likely stay that way until there's a more significant economic recovery. Still need that pay hike? Look for ways to increase your skills or education, and keep a close eye on internal promotion chances. Don't slack off on the job, show up early, and take on those projects everyone avoids. Build your resume, so you're ready when opportunity knocks. (Learn more about the CPI in Why The Consumer Price Index Is Controversial.)
If you think that nine to 10% national unemployment rate is bad, consider this: Unemployment among teenagers is a whopping 25.4% across the country. How does this affect you? If you're working in seasonal employment fields, or hourly-paid jobs that are popular with teens, you'll be facing some fierce competition. That summer job for extra money will be very hard to come by with this high level of unemployed young people. If you're one of these teens and/or college students, try to look sharp, practice your interviewing skills and have a resume polished when you're ready to apply. Apply early, and check in periodically to show you're serious and ready to work.
The Bottom Line
Unemployment statistics mean the same thing to all of us, employed or not. We have to be sharp on the job, put in the effort and be ready to be the best employee we can be. If you find yourself laid off, prepare for your job search to take a while. Keeping abreast of unemployment statistics, your industry's job market and your company's health is a must for any employee during trying economic times. (For additional reading, also see Your Employer's Stock: Should You Buy In?)
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