Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

News of Corporate Layoffs Overshadows Overall Growth

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

News of Corporate Layoffs Overshadows Overall Growth

Article excerpt

NEW YORK _ Layoffs. Layoffs. Layoffs. That seems to be the extent of news on the economy's health.

Just last week, Woolworth said it would slash 13,000 jobs. Two weeks before, in a single day, four companies _ Martin Marietta, USAir, DuPont and Chemical Waste Management _ announced job reductions totaling 16,000.

Nonetheless, beneath the appearances of a pink slip blizzard, something surprising is happening: job growth.

It may not be in your area of the country. It may not be the type of permanent, high-paying manufacturing work that seems to be on the endangered species list. It may be a few jobs from an auto-parts supplier or a hiring blitz from a new Wal-Mart. But Labor Department data show more jobs have been created since the recession ended in March 1991 than were lost.

Labor market experts say the ability of the economy to keep generating jobs, even in periods of slow or stagnating growth, historically has been one of the U.S. economy's biggest attributes.

Still, that is no comfort to the victims of job loss syndrome, which in many respects is different now than in any other period. Americans who always assumed they had job security, from computer developers to aircraft engine machinists, are finding themselves out of work with little prospect of returning to the same job, ever.

Take Raymond Blackburn of Salisbury, Conn. The 53-year-old construction industry production coordinator was laid off in December 1992 because of a building slump. He job-hunted for months.

"It meant a lot of company contacts, using as many resources as possible: networking, cold calling, newspaper job ads, magazine job ads, and on and on and on," he said. Blackburn finally found work as a furniture manufacturing supervisor.

For many American workers who have been through layoff cycles before, there is something different about the current malaise _ it seems to be lasting longer and the opportunities are scarcer.

"Losing a job today is somewhat of a different matter from losing a job, say, in the recessions of the '80s and before that _ where you basically sat and waited to be rehired," said Daniel J.B. Mitchell, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles' graduate school of management.

"People who lose jobs kind of have to get what they can get," he said.

Still, based on Labor Department figures, the number of unemployed Americans hasn't changed by much.

For example, 21.3 million people were unemployed at one time or another during 1991, the most recent year for which this statistic is available. But during 1986, a much stronger period, 20.7 million people were jobless.

"Unemployment is really the amount of time that it takes to find another job," said Audrey Freedman, president of Audrey Freedman Associates, a management consulting firm in New York.

"It is not static. It is not an on-off kind of status situation," she said. "It is simply the passage of weeks and months where someone who's lost one job is looking for another."

The paucity of jobs also affects people who are overqualified for the work they do or who want to work more hours. They can't easily find something better.

Sheila Hayes, a 47-year-old single mother from East Windsor, Conn. …

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