CHICAGO (CBS) — As if it weren’t hard enough that unemployment soared during the pandemic, a new study shows that the time it takes to land a new job is the longest it has been since 2016.

Those lengthy job searches can be discouraging. But CBS 2’s Tim McNicholas found a success story on the city’s North Side.

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In April 2020, businesses were shutting their doors left and right – and Ken Blanck found himself right in the thick of it all.

“I was laid off last year, last April,” Blanck said. “You go through a whole array of emotions. You’re upset, you’re discouraged, you’re angry.”

Blanck started scouring the web right away, applying for dozens of jobs and getting few responses and zero offers.

As the weeks turned to months, he stepped back from the job postings and started to network more through LinkedIn messages and phone calls – reaching out to people about potential leads.

Finally, in December, he was offered a job after his brother’s friend gave him an inside scoop on a financial management position that wasn’t even posted yet.

McNicholas: “The job you have now, would you say it’s better than the job you were laid off from?”

Blanck: “Absolutely, 100 percent better.”

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That’s the outcome that many are still seeking across the U.S., according to a new study from the job placement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas.

“We see long-term unemployment – people that have been searching for six months or longer – really reaching crisis levels in some ways,” said Andy Challenger of the firm.

Challenger said nearly 40 percent of all unemployed people had been out of work for six months or longer in January 2021. Before the pandemic, only 19 percent of the unemployed had been out of work that long.

One average, it took job seekers 3.3 months to find jobs last year, up from 2.7 months in 2019.

“Once there are more job openings and the competition for the open jobs falls a little bit, that’s when we’ll start to see job search times much shorter,” Challenger said.

CBS 2 is committing to Working For Chicago, connecting you every day with the information you or a loved one might need about the jobs market, and helping you remove roadblocks to getting back to work.

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We’ll keep uncovering information every day to help this community get back to work, until the job crisis passes. CBS 2 has several helpful items right here on our website, including a look at specific companies that are hiring, and information from the state about the best way to get through to file for unemployment benefits in the meantime.

Tim McNicholas