Workers saying no to new jobs

Fearful of more layoffs, employees 'hunker down' - but staying put may not be the safest choice.

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By Jessica Dickler, CNNMoney.com staff writer

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NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Job hopping, a widely accepted way to get ahead, has gone by the wayside as workers fear making moves will make them more vulnerable to layoffs.

Under normal conditions, workers average more than 10 different jobs by age 42, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and use each move to build a career, network and skill set.

But in today's market, turnover is slowing to a standstill. For the past three months, the quits rate, which serves as a barometer of workers' ability to change jobs, has remained at 1.6%, a near four-year low. The rate, a measure of the number of quits during the month as a percent of total employment, declined significantly across industries, including manufacturing, retail and finance, the BLS said. Only the mining industry has seen the rate rise significantly.

"When times are bad, people don't quit," said Robert Brusca, chief economist at Fact and Opinion Economics.

Not only are there fewer jobs available, but new hires may be at greater risk of being laid off.

"Often it's LIFO, or last in first out," Brusca said. "You don't want to be the recent hire so you stay where you are because you have seniority."

A bird in the hand...

As a result, many workers are staying put - even if they are unhappy.

About 62% of workers surveyed by TheLadders.com, a job search site, said they were not likely to achieve their career goals at their current company. A whopping 96% of them said they were likely to achieve their career goals at another company -- although nearly 37% said they would not relocate for another job opportunity.

"There's a 'hunker down mentality,'" explained Marc Cenedella, founder and CEO of TheLadders.com.

Consulting firm Accenture found that 53% of the middle managers it recently surveyed said they are dissatisfied. But only 13% said they are actively looking for a new job.

Additionally, 66% of respondents said they would consider a new job but are not actively looking; 46% said taking a new job in the current economic environment is risky.

"Talent mobility is frozen in the market place," said David Smith, managing director of Accenture's Talent & Organization Performance practice in North America. And that's not because the opportunities aren't there but because workers are afraid to take them.

Workers are now "over conservative," he added. "They're creating their own frozen mobility. ...There are companies that are growing, but it's hard to find new talents."

For those willing to take the plunge, Bob Eubank, executive director of the Northeast Human Resources Association, recommends carefully researching any prospective companies to determine their stability, including checking attitudes among current or former employees and understanding why positions are open.

He also suggests asking thorough questions during the interview process. For example, find out if there is an initial probationary period so that there are no surprises after you start.

"Make sure you've done all that you can to determine this is a good fit for you, because if it is a good fit, then you're probably no more at risk than anyone else in terms of being cut," he said.

In fact, you may even be safer than more tenured employees, he added, because of your potential promise: "If you can really add value and be valuable, then you're going to stay." To top of page

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