The unemployment numbers are not going to tell you very much for the reasons you mentioned. Look instead at the time off between jobs, longer hours, less equipment, lower wages, and loss of benefits to detect if things are really getting worse. I looked at engineering ads in the 50’s, 60's, and 70's and they usually were a simple sentence "Engineer wanted at XYZ, good work environment and benefits. Please come for an interview". In the 80's it started to switch to “[fill blank with several words] Engineer. Qualification required; And, and, and, and and infinitum. PO Box 101, no calls or visits, trespassers will be shot”. Something tells me there was a “tiny supply shift” that happened sometime in this time frame (1983 recession and 1986 was a peak year for CS degrees) and from what employers are looking for in a candidate today, it is not going to get any shorter.
You're right, it's not the Chinese it's stupid US leadership. Labor costs are only about 12% of the cost of US products. The rest is in energy and financial costs mostly. Then there is a VAT tax system that gives the Chinese a 30% advantage over US made products as well as the 40% subsidy of energy costs in China, and ta,ta!! Nationalized health care. Then there is the barrier to monetary exchange that they've constructed so that you have to have a way to convert currency that doesn't exist when you export to the US. But it's not just China, it's the same with every other country but the US. We've been tricked by "VOO DOO" economics and governance over the last 30 years but too many of you still buy in to that ideology to do anything about it.
Make sure your resume gets posted on several job boards. I found that while there can be overlap on boards such as Monster, Careerbuilder, Indeed, and Simplyhired will always show a few jobs that are unique to their particular boards. Having your resume on Linkedin can be valuable too.
If you are submitting your resume to a company, it may not hurt to read over their job description and use some of the terminology they are using to describe your own skills in your resume--speaking the same language helps.
I could be wrong on this, but I think if your resume has been on a particular board for a long time, like several months, it may not hurt to edit it as I think the act of editing may bump it towards the top of the fresh pile.
Keep the faith! I'm doing some contracting work after some time of unemployment. I did get several contacts from out of state which I didn't pursue. These contacts were generally from recruiters or companies who had seen my resume on one of the various job boards. I also got a contact from a company who had seen my resume on Linkedin.
Needless to say this is very, very unusual. I'm surprised that the guy you hired got past your HR department. However the one big problem with the 'bushy tail' factor is that you will get a person 'booked-up' on how to interview and nothing else. We've run into it here. Interviewing from the interviewer side is extremely difficult, you have to get past all the facade and to who the person really is.
Engineering obsolescense is not a new issue and neither is engineering unemployment. Many years ago, most engineers planned to move out of engineering work and into management or sales or some other department. The few that stayed in engineering were extraordinarly skilled.
Today the problem is much more severe. HR departments are unlikely to consider you unless your experience is an exact match. Technology is changing extremely rapidly and unless you are very lucky, the technology that you select to learn will probably be obsolete by the time you become proficient at it. Engineering is very expensive from a corporate point of view and it is difficult to make a direct link between engineering effort and profit. A perfect place to add to the bottom line. Even if engineering remains domestic there is a $ bias toward hiring younger engineers. Engineers are a lot like professional athletes. Their career is limited by age. Unfortunately, they don't get paid like athletes. The main issue, as I see it, is are engineers an asset or a liability?
TFC-SD, you are dead on! Virtually all advertised positions today are niches. This is why we see the long "...and...and...and..." skills requirements in job postings. Engineers meeting such stringent requirements are not just commodities. They are highly focused, and rare, specialists. So, I think what we really have is a shortage of EXCEPTIONAL engineers.
Our company, Analog Rails, was created and is owned by unemployed engineers and programmers in the Phoenix region. We were not helped by the government nor loans. I believe companies started this way was more popular in the 1960's than today. Maybe people were more entrepreneurial back then.
Most of the people at our company have been either new graduates, or engineers in their 50's. This seems to make sense based on what I am reading in this blog...anyway, our company is an example of engineers taking charge. It can be done, and we are an example of it...but it ain't for namby pamby's.