Hunting Season Begins for Laid-Off Good Job Market Doesn't Mean It's Easy to Find a New Employer

Article excerpt

Byline: Dan Culloton Daily Herald Business Writer

In recent weeks corporate America has sent the suburbs clear signs that a sunny economic climate does not necessarily mean job security.

The state's unemployment rate hit its lowest point in nearly a quarter-century last month, wages are rising and the economy continues growing with nary a trace of inflation.

These blue skies, however, have been blotted by scattered, heavy showers of pink slips.

Safety-Kleen Corp. in Elgin, Zenith Electronics in Glenview, Motorola Inc. in Schaumburg, and Waste Management Inc. and McDonald's Corp. in Oak Brook all are cutting jobs.

If it has to happen, this is not a bad time to be laid off.

With state unemployment at 3.9 percent, experts are calling the current job market the best in more than two decades.

That doesn't mean the recently laid-off will not have to work for a job, experts say.

"A lot of people think something is going to come to them because they are hearing it's a good market and it is a good market," said Christine McCann, executive director of the Barrington Career Center. "It's a good market for entry-level and lower-level jobs. We're finding it's still extremely difficult and competitive for middle- and upper-level positions."

Jobs are plentiful for engineers and people skilled with computers, the Internet and other forms of technology. Accountants, financial experts, physical therapists and other health-care professionals also can find jobs with relative ease.

Other positions, for example those in marketing and communications and human resources, are tougher to locate because companies are outsourcing those functions, said Judie Lukes, director of the Community Career Center in Naperville.

After bearing the brunt of the downsizing in recent years, middle managers are back in vogue, sort of, experts say. Employers want managers with the right mix of experience and technical expertise. In other words, you can never know enough about technology, but you can still be too old and expensive.

Typically a job search will take two months for every $10,000 of salary you want to earn, or about one month for every year of experience, Lukes says.

John A. Challenger says the average job search for a client of his Chicago outplacement firm, Challenger, Grey & Christmas, is now about three months. "Companies are, despite the layoffs, really out there searching for people and offering programs that we've not seen in quite a long time, like signing bonuses," Challenger said. …