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'09 Jobs Outlook: Bleak, Especially Early

Though the nation's jobs picture is likely to stay grim in the first half of 2009, things may start to turn around a bit in the second half, according to a leading employment analyst.

John Challenger, CEO of global outplacement consulting firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas, told co-anchor Erica Hill on The Early Show Saturday Edition that 2008 has been "a very tough year. About as bad as it can get. Unemployment been jumping up, and underemployment -- people who are in part-time jobs and would prefer a full-time job or who've looked in the last year but still can't find one -- is up at 12-and-a-half percent. So, it's not been a good year.

"2009 should be better, maybe in the second half of the year, but probably the first half is going to be more of the same."

There have been more than 1,000,000 job cuts this year, a five-year high.

Some economists are anticipating that unemployment, which currently stands at a national average of 6.7 percent, will reach as high as 9.0 percent before it starts to retreat. If that happens, it would be the highest jobless rate since 1983, says the firm.

And, despite the incoming Obama administration's expected massive economic stimulus package, "Job market conditions are expected to remain bleak in 2009. In fact, job cuts are likely to surpass 1,000,000 again next year, as employers continue to adjust payrolls in light of weak consumer and corporate spending," the company adds.

What's more, "It is important to remember that the beginning of an expansion does not bring instant job creation. After the last recession officially ended in November 2001, the unemployment rate continued to rise, peaking at 6.3 percent in June 2003. We are already beyond that point, and most experts consider this recession to be in its nascent stages," Challenger, Gray and Christmas points out.

Challenger himself told Hill, "The government has been taking extraordinary actions this year to try to repair the banking system by adding more money into the money supply, but the next administration, the Obama administration, is going to do a fiscal stimulus package, building roads and bridges and ports and schools and hospitals in a way that's just unprecedented, and that could add jobs, especially because the local governments that get the money have to spend the money or they lose it. All that's going to help jobs in a big way in 2009."

Still, experts agree that the effects of the stimulus package will take time to worth their way through the economy.

Challenger volunteered some job-seeking advice, stressing that job searchers "need to get a fast start. You cannot wait in this job market. New year. Great resolution: Get at it. Be open to changing industries. We see about 40 percent of people say (they will) leave automotive or banking and go into some of these healthy industries, like healthcare and energy, education. ... Look for industries that are healthy and get at that search."

His company is offering its services free Monday and Tuesday. The firms say it will "suspend normal business operations on December 29 and 30 to take phone calls from anyone needing job-search advice.

"The annual two-day national job search call-in will run from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Central Standard Time both days. The telephone number is 312-332-5790."

"This is a once-a-year opportunity for anyone to take advantage of our counselors' expertise. Our services typically are available only to those who lose their jobs and are sent to us by the former employer. With the current state of the economy and mounting job losses, we expect phone lines to be busy this year," the company says.

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