Watercooler - JOB SEARCH BLUES:

Posted: Friday, January 10, 2003

People who are looking for work expect their task to become even harder this year.

Sixty-seven percent of the 1,600 people who phoned a job search advice center during December said it would be tougher to find work in 2003 than it was last year, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., an outplacement firm.

Additionally, 80 percent of the callers said they'd prefer to join a small- or medium-sized firm of 500 or fewer people because large companies are more likely to hand out pink slips when times turn lean, Challenger Gray said.

The results were from the Chicago-based company's 17th annual advice call-in, which was conducted over two days. Most callers (68 percent) were unemployed, with the average length of joblessness 8.3 months.

Counselors offered the callers advice about interviewing techniques, how to find job opportunities and other career matters.

''This may be the most discouraged we have seen callers in the 17-year history of the call-in,'' said Rick Cobb, a Challenger Gray executive vice president. ''We have only conducted surveys of callers in recent years, but counselors do not remember confidence or the overall mood of callers ever being this low -- not even during the last recession and jobless recovery of the early 1990s.''

TRAVEL WOES: Does anyone still enjoy flying? Maybe, but the people at the travel firm Fodors wondered what annoys us most on a flight, and so they conducted an online survey.

A kicked seat topped the list of complaints, with 40 percent of women and 34 percent of men calling it the worst part of a trip. A crying child drove 31 percent of the male respondents and 23 percent of female respondents nuts.

A seatmate encroaching on his or her neighbor annoyed 27 percent of women and 23 percent of men.

And when nature calls, what do travelers do when the person in the next seat is asleep and blocking the path to the lavatory?

Respondents were divided on that issue. About 45 percent said they'd wake up the person and another 45 percent said they'd try to climb over. The rest split between waiting, and moving around with the hope of waking the seatmate up.

The autumn survey by Fodors Travel Publications LLC involved 1,900 people.

A BETTER 2003?: After hoping for an economic turnaround last year that never materialized, chief executives aren't sure when times will get better.

Still, three-quarters of 1,400 CEOs who participated in TEC International's quarterly survey said 2003 will be better than 2002.

When asked when the economy will rebound, 17 percent said it already has. Sixteen percent were bullish on the first quarter, while more than a quarter, 28 percent, predicted a recovery in the spring quarter. Fifteen percent said the third quarter. And 11 percent said better times won't return until next year.

Nearly half the chiefs, 48 percent, said they'd increase capital spending this year, and 53 percent said they plan to increase staff up to 5 percent.

The poll is conducted by TEC International, whose members include CEOs at firms with annual revenue of $1 million to $1 billion.

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