Report: Worker confidence up

More Americans are quitting their jobs and taking the risk of starting a business despite a still-lackluster job market.

Confidence in the economy is rising among workers and job seekers, according to a new report.

Employment services firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas on Tuesday said an analysis of government data and its own survey of unemployed managers show "a marked increase in risk-taking behavior among job-market participants."

U.S. Labor Department data reveals a recent increase in the percentage of unemployed workers who voluntarily quit their jobs, the company said, and its own survey found a jump in the percentage of unemployed managers who have started their own businesses. Over the last two quarters, the percentage of job seekers willing to risk starting a business grew to an average of 10 percent, according to the Challenger survey. That is up from the 6.8 percent start-up rate averaged in 2003.

"Even though the job market has not yet shown signs of a strong rebound in significant and sustained job creation, it seems that people are starting to feel as though this situation is just over the horizon," said a statement from John Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

The report did not have information specific to information technology fields. Mixed signals have emerged about the job situation for tech workers, who have weathered the dot-com bust and now face losing their job amid the trend of overseas outsourcing. A recent study from a labor group said the information technology industry lost 403,300 jobs from the start of the recession in March 2001 to April 2004, with nearly half of those jobs disappearing after the recession's official end.

On the other hand, unemployment rates for technology professionals have dropped, and surveys from staffing firm Hudson have found gradually increasing confidence among IT workers in the job market. In addition, technology services companies are hiring, though increasingly they are looking for a combination of tech and business skills.

The Challenger report found that between June and August an average of 11.1 percent of unemployed workers voluntarily left their previous positions. That was up from 9.2 percent averaged during the same period in 2003. It was the highest three-month figure since the July-to-September period in 2001, when job leavers accounted for an average of 12.2 percent of job seekers, according to Challenger, which provides outplacement services.