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Published: Tuesday, 10/23/2001

Finding high-paying jobs not as easy as before

BY JANE SCHMUCKER
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
Restaurant workers always seem to be in demand. Restaurant workers always seem to be in demand.
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Job hunters in the minimum wage market still have their pick of positions.

Those with excellent computer or technical expertise can find employment with only a little more time and effort than last year.

But the $10-an-hour positions for people with very few skills or connections have become few and far between in recent months.

“The competition's going to be pretty keen,” said Joe Schroeder, account executive with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. “It's going to take a serious job search effort.”

Welcome to job hunting in the wake of stock market losses, terrorist attacks, anthrax scares, and deep uncertainty. Even Christmas - when many retail jobs peak - won't be the same this year, according to Gerald Celente, director of the Trends Research Institute and author of Trends 2000.

“This is going to be the saddest holiday in modern history,” he said, adding that people “don't have it in their heart” to spend money.

The boom economy was unwinding long before the Sept. 11 tragedy and with it the number of employers calling Mr. Schroeder with job orders fell.

Almost everything in manufacturing is slow, he reported. He recommends that laid-off autoworkers and others who are offered free training programs attend every session they can to broaden their marketable skills.

“If ever there was a time to take advantage of it, it's right now,” he said. “The more computer skills you have the better job you'll be able to land.”

Employers in numerous industries have become far pickier about who they hire as their pool of applicants increases and work slows.

Polly Pomeranz, a clerical and secretarial counselor at Imperial Placement Service, Inc., said that employers who last year were so desperate for workers they would tell her “Just send someone!” now want to mull over resumes.

And job applicants - who last year typically told her they had to make more in a new job than they had in their last - have sometimes accepted less. One woman who Ms. Pomeranz felt should be making $16 an hour took a job for $12.

The same is true in professional sales, engineering, and accounting, said Mary Lou Ehasz, an Imperial counselor for those fields where some job applicants are taking positions that pay 20 percent less than their old job.

“2001 is not 2000 in any way, shape, or form,” she said.

In this fall's new economy, she said two tips that have long proven true have taken on new importance:

  • Follow up on interviews with a letter or phone call to keep your name in front of potential employers who have many applicants to choose among.

  • Get reference letters from superiors before you leave your job. The people you want as a reference may be hard to track down later if they get laid off or deployed with military reserve units.

    The call-up of military reserve units might increase the number of short-term, professional job openings to cover their duties until they return.

    The airplane hijackings and anthrax mailings that have dominated news for the last six weeks have not led to far greater security checks for new hires at most companies, many employment experts said.

    But several said they expected that to change and Ms. Ehasz said some businesses are double-checking records that they had previously left to employment agencies.



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