Americans who have been unfortunate enough to lose their jobs during the first half of the year can take some comfort in the fact that most will have found new jobs more quickly than in each of the past two years.
Figures from consultants Right Management suggest that three quarters (77 per cent) of lower- to midlevel managers found new jobs within three months from January to June 2006, while around half (53 per cent) of senior-level executives landed new employment within four months.
Six out of 10 of those deciding to start their own business or buying a business got them up and running within three months, and half (53 per cent) starting or buying consulting practices launched them within that same time frame.
The figures come from a survey of 3,745 laid-off employees throughout North America who found new jobs or embarked on a new businesses between January and June 2006.
"The strong economy earlier this year was a contributing factor to displaced employees landing new employment faster," said Mike Touhey, executive vice president of Right Management.
"Employees at all levels found new jobs quicker, and people were able to launch businesses or consulting practices sooner.
"However, the recent slowdown in creation of new jobs may contribute to longer job-search times for the remainder of the year," he warned.
But is it a sign of the continuing fragility of the U.S. jobs market that a high proportion of laid-off employees are launching their own businesses or consulting practices?
"There was a 24 per cent increase in the number of people who launched consulting practices within three months and an 11 per cent increase in the number of people who started or acquired businesses within three months," Touhey added.
Twenty per cent of people landing new jobs during the first six months of 2006 were entrepreneurs, the figures suggested, with 11 per cent starting or buying consulting practices, and a further nine per cent launching businesses, a similar proportion to 2005.
"Entrepreneurship continued to be viewed more as an active choice and less as a fallback position," Touhey said.
"When the economy is slow or in recession, more people finally decide to start their own businesses only after exhausting all other options, since available jobs are tougher to get.
"In a good job market, more people who choose to become entrepreneurs really want to have their own businesses, and they start these more quickly."