IEEE-USA Survey Taps Strategies for Surviving Unemployment

The report provides a comprehensive look at the experiences of IEEE members who were unemployed during the year, including what they did to find new jobs

6 May 2009

If you were to lose your job, how long could it take to find a new one? Do you know which industries are hiring? What job-search tactics work best?

You can find out how other IEEE members fared in similar situations, and create strategies for surviving your own possible layoff, in the 2008 IEEE-USA Unemployment Survey, now available as an e-book. The report provides a comprehensive look at the experiences of IEEE members who are—or were—unemployed during the year, including what they did to find new jobs.

Published biennially since 1995, the survey examines the experiences of IEEE members in the United States who report being unemployed and as a result qualify for reduced dues under the IEEE Special Circumstances program.

Members can use the report to identify the industries shedding jobs, learn about successful job search strategies, and recognize the kind of unemployment benefits available, says Chris Currie, manager of product development and marketing for IEEE-USA in Washington, D.C., which conducted the survey.

“We come up with the list of unemployed members in the spring, but we wait several months and survey them in the fall—which gives them time to look for new jobs,” Currie says. “The delay helps us gather meaningful feedback about their experiences while they seek new employment.”

Out of 3168 members surveyed, 614 questionnaires were returned, representing a 19 percent response rate—identical to the rates of the two previous surveys and sufficient to yield statistically valid correlations to the sample population as a whole, Currie says.

About 31 percent of the respondents had gotten full-time jobs as technical professionals. The rest referred to themselves as involuntarily unemployed (36 percent), voluntarily unemployed (7 percent), involuntarily retired (6 percent), voluntarily retired (2 percent), employed in a nontechnical profession (6 percent), employed part time (7 percent), or self-employed (5 percent). The mean duration of unemployment was 91 weeks; the median was 52 weeks.

Respondents answered questions about such things as the reasons they had lost their jobs, how long it took to find new work, and what industries they work in. “We also asked what our unemployed members did to find new jobs, and what their attitudes were about the whole experience,” Currie says.

The largest numbers of respondents had worked in the computer, electrical/electronic manufacturing, and communications industries. That’s not necessarily indicative of a worsening employment situation in those fields, but that conclusion is supported by a report in April from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The report showed the jobless rate for software engineers, for example, increased from 1.9 percent in the fourth quarter of last year to 4.2 percent in the first quarter of this year. Computer scientists and systems analysts saw their jobless rates nearly double—from 3 percent to 5.7 percent—for the same period while the overall U.S. unemployment rate rose from 6.1 percent to 8.4 percent. Currie points out that engineers almost always have lower unemployment rates than the general population—due to their relatively high level of education and transferable skills—but that gap has been narrowing in recent months.

Respondents reported they found networking and Internet job sites effective, whereas job fairs, headhunters, outplacement services, and classified ads were not much help. Respondents relying heavily on the classifieds reported being unemployed for 24 more weeks than those who didn’t.

Severance pay seems to have a psychological effect on efforts to find new jobs. Respondents receiving severance reported being unemployed for 34 more weeks on average than those receiving nothing—suggesting that newly unemployed IEEE members shouldn’t let severance pay make them complacent about their job search, Currie says.

With respect to benefits still being received by laid-off workers, 24 percent of respondents said they were offered a partial or full pension plan by their former employer; 69 percent were offered the option to continue health-care benefits, which employers are legally required to supply if they offer their employees a health-care plan; 48 percent were offered life insurance benefits; and 56 percent were offered dental insurance. Nearly 27 percent said their previous employer offered no such benefits.

The 2008 IEEE-USA Unemployment Survey is available as a PDF e-book that costs US $4.95 for members and $19.95 for nonmembers. Also, IEEE-USA offers resources for unemployed or at-risk members.

IEEE membership offers a wide range of benefits and opportunities for those who share a common interest in technology. If you are not already a member, consider joining IEEE and becoming part of a worldwide network of more than 400,000 students and professionals.

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