This is US info but likely relevant in Canada...
By Peter S. Goodman - updated Sun., Sept . 27, 2009
Despite signs that the economy has resumed growing, unemployed Americans now confront a job market that is bleaker than ever in the current recession, and employment prospects are still getting worse.
Job seekers now outnumber openings six to one, the worst ratio since the government began tracking open positions in 2000. According to the Labor Department’s latest numbers, from July, only 2.4 million full-time permanent jobs were open, with 14.5 million people officially unemployed.
And even though the pace of layoffs is slowing, many companies remain anxious about growth prospects in the months ahead, making them reluctant to add to their payrolls.
“There’s too much uncertainty out there,” said Thomas A. Kochan, a labor economist at M.I.T.’s Sloan School of Management. “There’s not going to be an upsurge in job openings for quite a while, not until employers feel confident the economy is really growing.”
The dearth of jobs reflects the caution of many American businesses when no one knows what will emerge to propel the economy. With unemployment at 9.7% nationwide, the shortage of paychecks is both a cause and an effect of weak hiring.
In Milwaukee, Debbie Kransky has been without work since February, when she was laid off from a medical billing position — her second job loss in 2 years. She's exhausted her unemployment benefits, because her last job lasted for only a month.
Indeed, in a perverse quirk of the unemployment system, she would have qualified for continued benefits had she stayed jobless the whole two years, rather than taking a new position this year. But since her latest unemployment claim stemmed from a job that lasted mere weeks, she recently drew her final check of $340.
Ms. Kransky, 51, has run through her life savings of roughly $10,000. Her job search has garnered little besides anxiety.
“I’ve worked my entire life,” said Ms. Kransky, who lives alone in a one-bedroom apartment. “I’ve got October rent. After that, I don’t know. I’ve never lived month to month my entire life. I’m just so scared, I can’t even put it into words.”
Last week, Ms. Kransky was invited to an interview for a clerical job with a health insurance company. She drove her Jeep truck downtown and waited in the lobby of an office building for nearly an hour, but no one showed. Despondent, she drove home, down $10 in gasoline.
For years, the economy has been powered by consumers, who borrowed exuberantly against real estate and tapped burgeoning stock portfolios to spend in excess of their incomes. Those sources of easy money have mostly dried up. Consumption is now tempered by saving; optimism has been eclipsed by worry.
Meanwhile, some businesses are in a holding pattern as they await the financial consequences of the health care reforms being debated in Washington.
Even after companies regain an inclination to expand, they will probably not hire aggressively anytime soon. Experts say that so many businesses have pared back working hours for people on their payrolls, while eliminating temporary workers, that many can increase output simply by increasing the workload on existing employees.
“They have tons of room to increase work without hiring a single person,” said Heidi Shierholz, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute Economist. “For people who are out of work, we do not see signs of light at the end of the tunnel.”
Bryan C Webb, P. Eng.
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