Job Market Blues

The only thing tougher than being in the job market now is trying to figure out which way the job market is leaning.

Early this month, USA Today reported that there were several signs that the job market was looking up. The number of temp workers is on the rise; the number of hours worked was steady; and the number of people entering the work force was ticking upward, the paper reported, citing data from the U.S. Labor Department.

Last week, though, several media outlets countered that the number of new unemployment claims had climbed to 439,000 during the first week of July; and economists say that if the job market were improving, the jobless claims number would be heading below 400,000.

After painstaking analysis of the data, Headcount concludes that the job market is just plain weird. And with that, we'll review some of the past week's most interesting hirings and firings:

  • Here's a bit of news we missed earlier: Jim Fultz, former CEO of AcceLight Networks, has taken the top job at CWDM equipment vendor RBN Inc. Fultz arrived at RBN only a few months after AcceLight went dark (see Headcount: Meet My Shareholders?). RBN, for some reason, has opted not to publicize Fultz's new gig.

    Prior to AcceLight, Fultz had been in the chief's chair at Zaffire, which was sold to Centerpoint Broadband Technologies Inc., and Scion Photonics, which was sold to JDS Uniphase Corp. (see Fultz Joins AcceLight as CEO, Scion Picks Fultz, and Zaffire Names New CEO). Fun fact: Each of Fultz's last three jobs have lasted less than two years, and each has ended with the companies either being acquired or going under.

  • Agility Communications Inc. acknowledges it laid off some employees in June, but won't say how many were let go. A spokesperson for the company says it employed fewer than 100 both before and after the firings.

    Before the layoff, Agility's chief operating officer Jim Haynes left to pursue other interests, the spokesperson says. Haynes joined Agility in January 2001 after a 17-year career at Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT).

    Also leaving Agility in June was Arlon Martin, the company's VP of marketing. Arlon had been with Agility since May 2000, a job he took after winding up his time at Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU) (see Arlon Martin, from Lucent to Agility). In January, Agility lost its chief financial officer, but the company filled the position internally within a couple of months (see Headcount: I'll Strike if You Fire Me!).

  • Sycamore Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: SCMR) VP of corporate marketing has left her post. Anita Brearton, who joined Sycamore in September 1998, sent a note to her contacts saying she has decided to "take a break and focus on family for a while...

    "For the time being I'm going to be limiting my involvement in the ever changing telecoms industry to occasional consulting work," Brearton writes.

    Sycamore hasn't named a replacement for Brearton. A spokesman tells Light Reading that her duties are being handled by other executives in the company.

  • On Saturday, The Morning Call of Allentown, Pa., reported that its hometown chip giant Agere Systems (NYSE: AGR.A) is "about 400 layoffs away from its target employment number of 6,800 workers worldwide." Ugh! Headcount wonders if Agere workers don't find their days delightfully suspenseful with that specter lurking in the background.

  • After seeing a "For Lease" sign on Chiaro Networks' front door, some have assumed that the routing startup has ascended to that great IP data cloud in the sky. Actually the company is just consolidating its operations to one building, according to Carey Parker, Chiaro's VP of marketing.

    The company had been spread across two sites -- 261 West Renner Road and 251 West Renner Road in Richardson, Texas -- while subleasing some of the space to another company. But Chiaro is smaller now, and its tenants have split, so the company can now inhabit a single building -- the 251 address.

    "By the way, need any office space in Richardson?" Parker asks in an email. Office space? In Richardson? Headcount wonders if Parker would have an easier time selling a double bed to the Pope.

    Here's a summary of more appointments, disappointments, and other work-related news from the past several days: As always, please send your news tips and employment rumors to us at [email protected]. We'll reward you by taking the pile of official employment data on our desks, binning it, and never writing about it again.

    — Phil Harvey, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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