Now more optimistic, job-seekers dust off resumes

Reuters- Like many unemployed Americans, Gint Butenas is cautiously hopeful that things might be about to go his way.

The 57-year-old information technology worker was laid off by a pharmaceutical manufacturer in 2009. At the time, Butenas recalls the economy was losing 250,000 jobs a month so he saw little point in even looking for work.

After completing a master’s degree to improve his IT skills in 2010, he is now looking for a job and noticing signs of improvement.

“I am being contacted more and I have had a couple of interviews,” Butenas said as he attended a technology job fair at DePaul’s satellite campus in downtown Chicago. Fifty employers, including CME Group, LivingSocial and Allstate Insurance, were accepting resumes.

“But I’m still looking. That’s why I’m here … I wake up some mornings and just can’t believe where I am.”

Data released on Friday showed many more Americans who gave up looking for work flooded back into the labor force in February as the hangover from the deep 2007-09 economic crisis shows signs of easing.

For the third month in a row, the U.S. economy created more than 200,000 jobs, still a small dent in the millions of jobs lost since the start of the recession.

The labor force participation rate – the percentage of working-age Americans either with a job or looking for one – rose to 63.9 percent from 63.7 percent in January, a report from the Labor Department said on Friday.

Though the rate remains near a 29-year low, it was the biggest monthly jump since April 2010.

Many Americans never gave up looking for work and their perseverance is starting to pay off.

Julian Robinson, 47, started a job as a financial analyst this week at a New York hedge fund, two years after being laid off by another firm where he worked for more than three years.

Despite his actuarial skills, the search for work was not easy. He had 20 to 30 telephone interviews, but companies often rejected him because he was over-qualified for the position he had applied for.

Then in the past month, he was offered two jobs.

“I think it’s sometimes being in the right place at the right time,” said Robinson.

Natalya Podgorny, 31, is hoping for the same luck.

Since leaving a job in magazine publishing five months ago, Podgorny has networked, revised her resume over and over, applied for positions online and in person, and taken classes at New York University to sharpen skills.

Though she estimates only one in 15 employers ever respond to applications, she says some doors are now starting to open.

“It’s been a little discouraging, but I’ve had a number of personal contacts come forward in the past week, so I have noticed a change,” said Podgorny, 31, with a pile of resumes in hand at a job fair at New York’s Madison Square Garden.

“I just didn’t ever expect it to take so long,” she said. “I wouldn’t have left my old job without a concrete plan if I had a sense of just how long it would take.”


The surge in new job-seekers last month would normally have bumped up the unemployment rate, putting pressure on President Barack Obama as he heads into a re-election campaign. Instead, the jobless rate held steady at three-year low of 8.3 percent because of an offsetting jump in new jobs.

U.S. unemployment was at 4.5 percent in mid-2007 before jumping to a crisis-era peak of 10.1 percent in October 2009.

People who are not looking for work do not count as part of the labor force, and there were about 1 million workers in February who had let at least a month go by without doing job searches. As the labor market improves, more of them will likely re-enter the workforce, threatening to push up jobless rate.

Holly Steel of Foxboro, Massachusetts, has not yet found a job, but she is more optimistic than she was last August when she was laid off at Sun Life Financial where she worked in internal communications.

She said she was waiting to hear back about one position and has an interview next week for another.

“I think there is more need than before, but I’m still seeing a lot of companies looking for managerial positions but not willing to pay the salaries that in the old days people were able to get,” said Steel.

More companies have also gone knocking on colleges’ doors.

Pennsylvania State University has seen a 6-percent uptick this year over last in the number of employers interviewing on campus. Meanwhile, a report by the Collegiate Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University predicted on campus hiring would increase by 7 percent this spring. “With the job market lifting, we are certainly seeing an increase in the competition for top talent,” said Robyn Tyler, vice president of global talent management at Office Depot Inc, the second-largest U.S. office supply retailer.

James Dzuris, 24, a student of national security policy at West Virginia University, said the poor economy was the reason he stayed at school to get a master’s degree.

“I figured I might as well stay for another two years,” he said after distributing resumes at the Madison Square Garden job fair.

“Everybody is waiting for the baby boomers to move and for the new generation to come in, is the sense I get,” Dzuris added.


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