The Average Length of the Job Hunt

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Numerous factors influence the average length of the job hunt. Some of them are under your control, and some are not. As of May 2014, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimated the median duration of unemployment at 14.6 weeks. Older and long-term unemployed workers generally face a tougher challenge and may end up spending 26 to 52 weeks on the hunt, depending on their skills and circumstances.

Recent Trends

  • After several years of stagnation, statistical evidence suggests the average length of time without a job has decreased. For example, the BLS reports that the average duration of unemployment decreased from 38.6 to 34.5 weeks between May 2013 and May 2014. During the same time period, the median duration of unemployment also dropped from 18.8 to 14.5 weeks. Analysts cited for Bloomberg.com's March 2013 report suggested the figures showed companies were feeling more confident about hiring as the U.S. economy began to improve.

Older Workers

  • Older workers, who typically have the most trouble finding new jobs, benefited most from employers' new-found willingness to hire. According to Bloomberg.com's March 2013 report, the median duration of unemployment for workers aged 45 through 54 decreased from 31 weeks, in 2011, to 26 weeks in the fourth quarter of 2012. For workers 55 and older, the median duration of unemployment shrank from 36 to 29 weeks during the same period.

Number of Applicants

  • How long you keep looking often depends on how much competition you're facing. The average opening attracts 118 applicants, "Forbes" magazine states in its April 2013 article, "Seven Things You Probably Didn't Know About Your Job Search." As the process begins, roughly half are eliminated right away through special software that matches resume keywords with the job description. Only 20 percent will land an interview, which is why it's critical that your resume stands out above the pack.

Long-Term Unemployed

  • Applicants who remain unemployed for significant periods face the biggest challenge at finding new jobs. Employers often presume that such applicants lack recent work skills that make them good candidates. An estimated 5.5 million Americans looked for jobs in 2012 but went the whole year without working, say BLS statistics cited for CNN Money's January 2014 report, "Job Search: One Year and Counting . . ." As of December 2013, 37 percent of long-term unemployed applicants had gone six or more months without working.

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