More Middle Managers Going Back to Work

SOME good news for middle managers: The employment pace is picking up.

Unemployed mid-level managers are finding work in near-record time, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., an international outplacement consulting firm in Chicago. Outplacement firms are hired by companies to help managers and other workers whose jobs have been phased out find new employment.

In the first quarter of 1993, the median job-search time was three months, the second lowest in the 15-year history of the Challenger Index.

Almost all the managers - 93 percent - were hired at salaries equal to or better than their previous jobs, the index found. The index researches unemployment figures and job-search information.

This is good news for a class of workers whose jobs have become vulnerable as technology reshapes the workplace. It also may be good news for the overall economy. Typically, managers are brought in six months before new general hiring begins, says James Challenger, president of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

"When search times decrease and the number of people who find equivalent or better jobs goes up, that signals to us that there is enhanced optimism on the part of business managers about their businesses," adds John Challenger, executive vice president.

Outplacement firms usually do not recommend that their clients use executive search firms. Executive search, true to its name, is almost exclusively for top executives. "Search firms ... are often very reluctant to bring in a candidate who has been discharged from another job," Mr. Challenger says. He says search firms sometimes hire out-of-work managers when they are looking for very specific qualifications.

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