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National Unemployment Rate is Irrelevant

Each month, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics releases detailed data about the jobs market, including the national unemployment rate, which is usually released the first Friday of each month (The rate for February is 4.8%, although the government said businesses made their deepest staffing cuts in five years, fueling fears of a recession). Government officials spin their own analyses behind any change in the rate. Then the stock market reacts and people feel either secure or scared depending on their employment status.

But the national unemployment rate means very little to each individual. Why? The bureau also publishes unemployment rates for 369 metropolitan areas. The numbers from your area – or an area where you’re considering relocating - may be a better indicator of your chances at finding a new job. Even the rate for each state may hold more helpful answers, especially if jobs are more plentiful where you live or whether you may have a more challenging job search ahead of you.

The length of a job search is partially affected by local unemployment rates. However, there are several other factors that affect the likelihood of employment. They include:

  • An inventory of your skills and talents,
  • Demand for your skills,
  • The quality of your resume,
  • The quality of your cover letter and other correspondence,
  • Your job interview skills,
  • Your networking skills and contacts,
  • Time invested daily on job searching; and,
  • Your attitude.

As you can see from this list, many factors that affect your employability are within your control. However, demand for your skills is one large factor beyond your control.

Looking for work is often more difficult than doing the jobs we pursue and land. I’ve been unemployed and know this reality first hand. What helped me get through the hard times was to focus on the things I did control, like the items listed above. I also tried to get out of the house and meet people and found that the more conversations I had, the better I felt.

Each industry has its own economic cycle. While some are slowing, others are growing. To succeed in your next job search, focus on industries that are growing and the activities you can control.

What helps you during your job search?

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