Challenger: Job Seekers Being Too Timid

February 11, 2004 ( - Part of the reason the current economic recovery has advanced in painful fits and starts is that job seekers are being way too tentative in their approach to finding work, an outplacement firm said.

In a report of its latest quarterly job market index of 3,000 discharged managers and executives, Challenger, Gray & Christmas said relocation among job seekers is down 39% from recent highs, business start-ups are 30% lower and the willingness to change industries is nearly 10% lower than in 2002.

“Combine these declines with the fact that corporate spending on research and development and on new capital equipment has been slow to increase and you have a picture of a risk-averse economy that is destined to stagnate,” said CEO John Challenger. “At a time when indications of a strengthening economy should be prompting people and companies to take more risks, they appear to be going in the opposite direction. This will not bring the recovery to a halt, but it will certainly keep it in the slow lane.”

The firm’s index shows that the percentage of jobless managers and executives relocating in 2003 fell to an annual average of 13.9%, the lowest figure since Challenger began its tracking in 1986. Despite the fact that the 2003 economy was much improved over 2002, the 13.9% relocation rate was down from 14.3% in 2002. Last year’s average was 18% lower than the 2001 average of 17% and 40% lower than the 23% averaged in 2000.

In addition, the Challenger index revealed that other forms of risk-taking among job seekers have also dropped. The percentage of jobless managers and executives starting their own businesses fell to an annual average of 6.8% from 9.6% in 2002 – the lowest annual average since 1997, when 6.5% of these job seekers started firms.

Moving to a different Industry also decreased in 2003. An average of 46.5% of job-seeking managers and executives migrated to new industries in their new positions, down from 50.5% a year earlier.

“The problem with staying with the safe route when job seeking is that it invariably prolongs the process,” Challenger said in a statement. “Those who choose to expand their search to cities or states or who look at a variety of industries where their job skills fit are going to significantly improve their chances of success because they are opening themselves to far more opportunities.”