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Government shutdown gives us a break from job numbers — and a chance to think positively

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Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013, 9:10 p.m.

You can don a cheerier disposition now that the government did not release the jobs report that usually comes out the first Friday of every month.

Because of the congressional budget impasse and subsequent partial government shutdown, we got no official short-term snapshot on the unemployment rate and the number of new jobs generated in September. All but three of the Bureau of Labor Statistics employees are furloughed.

The information can be useful when looking at the economy, but job hunters can use a break from numbers that tend to have a destructive effect on their psyches.

First, this data makes no difference to you and what you do every day in your job search. Whether the unemployment rate is up or down a fraction of a percentage point or how many people filed for unemployment is immaterial in finding who to talk to about your career.

The statistics are not germane to what words you use on your resume or say in an interview. The figures are pointless when you are trying to connect with people on LinkedIn or Twitter.

The data only make you worry and then go around fretting about a lack of jobs, which simply isn't true.

The government's estimated numbers are notoriously imperfect and almost always get revised, sometimes dramatically, the next month. So they seem only to put job hunters into crabby and desperate moods.

And that is not the kind of person an employer wants.

Employers from all industries tell me they absolutely look at attitude and eliminate people who seem negative without a second thought. One after the other says that people who complain or moan about the economy or getting laid off are not hiring material.

You might be surprised how much your perception can affect your performance in your job search.

You've heard of the power of positive thinking. Now psychologists believe in the power of positive perception.

Studies at Purdue University looked at how perception affects performance and found a clear relationship between how hard a task seems to be and how it appears.

One study looked at golf, the hole on the green and how people perceived the hole. When people perceived the hole to be bigger, they made their putts more successfully, says psychology associate professor Jessica Witt of Colorado State University, who led the study when she was at Purdue.

But the effects aren't specific to athletes, she says. They're found in everyone and with all kinds of tasks. In an interview on National Public Radio, she pointed out that with positive perception comes confidence.

We may not have the official government figures this month. But if you're craving statistics, here's what other sources discovered happened in September:

• ADP's payroll report showed a gain of 166,000 private sector jobs. Small business generated 74,000 jobs.

• Outplacement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas said companies' planned job cuts fell to their lowest level in three months.

These reports suggest that the economy is moving along at the same pace it has for months — slowly but in a positive direction.

Write to career consultant Andrea Kay in care of USA TODAY/Gannett, 7950 Jones Branch Drive, McLean, VA 22108, or email Twitter: @AndreaKayCareer.

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