discouraged.jpgSnap out of it!

The employment report this morning showed a slight dip in the jobless rate to 8.3 percent, and a solid number of new jobs, 243,000 created in January, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That’s great news for people who are out there pounding the pavement trying to find work. But the jobs’ data showed there’s a big group of jobless folks who may not even care.

The number of discouraged workers topped 1 million in January from 993,000 in the same month last year. Those figures are worse than what supposedly was the job-market bottom in 2009 when only 778,000 of your were discouraged. And it’s way more than ten years ago, right after Sept. 11, when 369,000 of you were job disheartened.

The BLS definition of a discouraged is: “persons not currently looking for work because they believe no jobs are available for them.” And the numbers paint a sad picture of how the Great Recession has beaten many of you down.

Such workers won’t show up in the nation’s unemployment rate, but their swelling ranks reveal an even tighter job market than we think.

What’s driving the rise in job discouragement in this economy has to do with a host of factors, said Michael Komie, a clinical psychologist who specializes in workplace issues.

“People who are losing their jobs in this economy are less likely to find an equal or better job in the same industry,” he noted. The job search process has changed significantly in just the past few years, he added, making it harder for many workers — especially older ones — to figure out the tactics needed to land a new gig.

A lengthy job search can hurt morale, reduce motivation and lead to discouragement, Komie added.

“If they think there’s no light at the end of the tunnel, they don’t know which way to steer the boat,” he said.

Such attitudes, however, prolongs the time it will take you to find a job, said Duncan Mathison, co-author of “Unlock the Hidden Job Market: 6 Steps to a Successful Search When Times Are Tough.”

“If you don’t want to be working two or three months from now, then take time off,” he said. “If you take yourself out of the market, all you’re doing is delaying getting a position. You’ve disrupted the funnel and the flow of potential opportunities. That’s what’s going to hurt you.”

So, if you’re sitting on the couch right now, get up! You need to lay the groundwork for your job search before hiring managers begin to do their budgets for positions this fall, Mathison said.

Actually, getting started could be the toughest part. Here are some concrete and productive steps to get you motivated, according to Mathison:

* Write down what positions you’re looking for and you’re qualified to do.
* Figure out the possible titles of those positions.
* Figure out the titles of your potential managers.
* Come up with a list of 50 companies you’d consider working for, even if they have no listed jobs available.
* Make a list of 100 people you know, everyone from relatives to former colleagues.
* Connect with each person on the list individually, not with an e-mail blast, and find out if they know anyone at the 50 companies you identified that might hold a position you’ve targeted above.

I know it’s easier said than done. I know searching for work with little success can sap your enthusiasm. But you have to dig down and reignite your hope. What other choice do you have?

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