Job Search: How Long Does It Take to Find a Job?

A recent survey of employed and unemployed job seekers conducted by global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas reveals the time it can take to conduct a job search.

One of the most nagging questions in job seekers' minds is how long it will take to find a new job. A survey of 600 job seekers conducted at the end of last month by global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas gives an indication of the length of time it's taking job seekers to find jobs in today's market. 

Of the 600 job seekers Challenger polled, 77 percent were unemployed. The rest had jobs.  Of the more than three-quarters who were unemployed, nearly half had been out of work for more than a year: 

  • 49 percent had been out of work for more than a year
  • 8 percent had been out of work 10 to 12 months
  • 5 percent had been out of work for seven to nine months
  • 16 percent had been out of work for four to six months
  • 20 percent had been out of work for one to three months 

Of the nearly 50 percent of job seekers who've been unemployed for more than a year, 60 percent of those long-term job seekers have been out of work for two years and counting. 

In a press release announcing the survey results, Challenger CEO John Challenger noted that some of the job seekers who've been out of work two-plus years are stay-home-moms and retirees hoping to return to the workforce.  

When Challenger asked both employed and unemployed job seekers how long they thought it would take to land a new job, 

  •  28 percent are confident they can find something new within 3 months
  •  37 percent expect the job search to take four to six months
  •  14 percent think it will take seven to nine months
  •  12 percent anticipate the job search will take 10 to 12 months
  •  10 percent believe they'll be looking for a new job for more than a year. 

"Overall, the majority of callers – 65 percent – felt they would find a job in six months or less.  That is a pretty realistic assessment," Challenger said in the press release. "In a healthy economy, a successful job search might take two to three months.  In a tight job market, such as the one we are in now, it is not unusual to see even high-quality candidates take four to six months." 

Challenger believes job seekers have reason to be more optimistic about the labor market and their chances of finding a new job this year. He notes that private sector layoffs are down and that hiring is on the rise. 

Indeed, according to the unemployment report the U.S. Labor Department released last Friday,  employment increased by 200,000 in December, and the number of unemployed Americans, along with the unemployment rate, continued to tick downward.  The unemployment rate is now at 8.5 percent and 13.1 million people are counted as unemployed, down from 9.4 percent and 14.5 million a year ago. 

By Challenger's count, organizations need to hire nearly four million people every month just to replace the 2 million people who quit their jobs each month, plus the 250,000 to 350,000 workers who retire, transfer to new locations, or otherwise can't work, and the "hundreds of thousands" of others who get fired for cause.

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