Even employed people are looking for jobs

According to a recent Labor Department report, first time job claims for unemployment benefits jumped to 667,000 last week, a 26-year high. Additionally, the number of people receiving unemployment benefits for more than a week has climbed to over five million, a record high.

To make things worse, the recently unemployed only represent a portion of the people who are scouring the job market. According to a Neilsen online study that is due to be released today, even people who are currently employed are searching for better, more secure employment.

The Nielsen study, which monitored traffic to job search and career development websites, found that unique visitors to these sites increased by almost 20% in January. In terms of pure numbers, this translates to 49.7 million visitors in January 2009, versus 41.5 million a year earlier.

Part of the reason for this jump was the unemployment rate: in January, it was 7.6%, a 16-year high. However, unemployment is only part of the story. A large number of the visitors to these sites are currently employed, but are concerned about the future of their jobs. This is hardly surprising; the internet is overflowing with sites that tell people how to prepare for the loss of their jobs, and give tips on the best way to find a new one.

(Incidentally, if you're wondering about the best method for surviving the recession, many experts suggest getting involved in your community. Volunteering expands one's social network, and thus one's inside access to many jobs.)

For people who are gainfully employed, searching job sites, dusting off resumes, building emergency savings, and reviewing severance policies seem to be useful methods for combating unemployment paranoia. This is particularly relevant, given that, even among people who are comfortably employed, the fear of job loss is becoming a major stress. According to a recent Washington Postpoll, 57% of respondents are worried about the current economic climate, and more than 50% are afraid that they or a member of their household will be fired or have a reduction in hours. Among households that have already experienced such a setback, 82% worry about further cuts. One particularly telling statistic is the salary breakdown: among families that make $100,000 per year or more, the number of respondents who feel financially secure has dropped by 20% in the last six months.

Adding to the economic stress (and the number of job site respondents) is the fact that many former retirees are re-entering the market. According to the Neilsen survey, "people 65 and over represent the fastest-growing group among visitors to job sites." While part of this is due to evaporating retirement savings and failing investments, it is also indicative of a growing trend toward continued late-life employment. The Oregon Employment Department notes that, in November 1998, the national unemployment rate for workers 65 and older was 4.6%, the highest since the 1970's. Moreover, the total share of jobs held by post-retirement workers grew from 2.3% to 3.6% between 1998 and 2008.
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