Job seekers find more work, less pay

March 6, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
It's the cold, hard truth in a brutal economy. People looking for work have more competition now than in a generation. The nation's unemployment rate hit 8.1-percent in February. The U.S. lost 651,000 jobs last month, which was more than expected.

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That follows a similar loss in January of 655,000 and a record loss of 681,000 jobs in December. When you add in the number of job cuts in November, that means two-and-a-half million jobs have been lost in just the last four months.

Not only are there fewer jobs, but salaries are going down. Some people looking for jobs start out picky, but then quickly find out there's not a lot of room to negotiate.

Brett Emerson isn't surprised to hear the unemployment rate is at a 25-year-high. He got a taste of it when he started hiring for his new San Francisco restaurant, Contigo.

"We had about 1,000 applications for 18 jobs," says Emerson.

And for those who are lucky enough to land one of the few jobs out there, labor experts say they'll probably get a pay cut. Wages are now flat or are taking a dip.

"Unfortunately, I wasn't able to negotiate a strong salary compared to what I had before," says Veronica Bykin, a software engineering manager.

Bykin of San Francisco will start a new job on Monday, after getting laid off in October. It's the same position she had at her former company, but she'll be making less money and have less flexibility.

"I just don't think it's the climate where you can be very selective or think you can hold out that long for something better," says Bykin. "I'm lucky to have a job."

Those who work at the staffing company Manpower say employers are definitely offering less money for more work.

"They can get people for lower costs and they know that," says Bill Wicht, a Manpower staffing specialist.

And of course that trickles down and impacts how much people are able to spend. So at places like Contigo, which just opened on Tuesday, the owner adjusted for the times.

"We're offering a very value-oriented menu, it's geared for this economy, and I think it shows a lot of people are here," says Emerson.

He said opening during this time has been nerve-wracking. Some fortune 500 employers say people looking for a job now should expect to make 10 to 20-percent less than they did in the past.

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