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Exec search CEO sees hard road for long-term jobless

The job market has been showing slow, but steady improvement this year. On Aug. 1, the U.S. Labor Department reported that the economy added 209,000 jobs in July, which was less than analysts forecast. But it was the sixth straight month that nonfarm payroll gains topped 200,000, considered a healthy level. And it was accompanied by a healthy increase in the labor participation rate.

While hiring has rebounded, it's still a challenge for people who have been out of work for months to get jobs, says Geoffrey Hoffmann, chief executive at search firm DHR International. However, there are some strategies that can help combat it. Hoffmann shared his insights with CBS MoneyWatch Executive Editor Amey Stone in a recent interview, excerpted below:

MoneyWatch: From your vantage point as an executive recruiter, what do you see happening with hiring in the U.S. currently?

Geoff Hoffmann: At DHR, we focus primarily at the senior level across a wide variety of industries. It's interesting -- 2013 and 2014 have been great for us. We think it's just think a matter of time before we see some of that momentum in the broader employment sector.

MW: Are the companies coming to you for help finding executives primarily looking to fill existing positions, or are they creating new jobs? I"m wondering about that new job creation piece we're all looking for in the economy.

GH: It can be a combination. Certainly, a big proportion of our business is replacement hiring -- someone leaves, someone retires, someone gets a new opportunity. Actually, believe it or not, that's not bad. When there's churn in the labor market, that's actually good for a whole bunch of reasons.

But we actually have seen a whole lot of expansionary hiring this year, too. It has come in sectors that you wouldn't necessarily think. Retail, for instance, has been doing a lot of expansionary hiring. Our industrial practice has been doing really well. So, sooner or later we'll start to see some broader opportunities.

MW: Your firm is global, so are any international markets growing faster than the U.S.?

GH: Sure, hiring momentum in Asia really continues. There has been a blip in some of the broader macroeconomic indicators that have been released over the past few months in Asia, but it really hasn't slowed down the momentum, especially as it relates to U.S. multinationals that are looking for additional markets to expand.

MW: A continuing weak spot in the economy has been the long-term unemployed. Are you seeing at senior level people who are out of work a year or two? Are you ever able to place those people, or is somebody really just tainted if they haven't been in the workforce for a while

GH: It's challenging. It's one of those stigmas we've had where if you have been on sidelines for a number of months or even years, prospective employers start to wonder why. Is he damaged goods? What's going on? Why is this person on the sidelines?

There are strategies to work around that if you're one of those people who has been displaced. Setting up your own consulting organization can fill in some of the gaps between the downtime of opportunities. But there's no question that it's an issue that we face as a country, and one that doesn't have a simple solution.

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