By Joyce Lain Kennedy

DEAR JOYCE: I don't care what the Pollyanna pundits say, after four months of looking under every rock, I have come to believe there are "no" jobs out there. -- W.M.

The conventional answers to the no-jobs dilemma are:

1) Confirm that there really are no jobs in your industry -- have you looked for hidden pockets of opportunity with niche or smaller companies?

2) If the odds of working in your field truly are slim to none, have you self-assessed to identify which of your skills and areas of knowledge would be most attractive to other industries (crossover skills)?

3) Review your job-hunting prowess. Be sure you're not spinning your wheels chasing jobs at big companies for which you're not perfectly qualified. (Small companies have the most jobs.) Audit your primary networking groups: Are there enough people in the jobs and companies you've targeted? Have you been persistent in re-contacting people, like every other week? Does your resume read like a million others? Are you interviewing as well as you could (after video-recording your practice sessions)?

But maybe you've traveled the whole nine yards and still have no job offers because there are too many blank spaces where jobs used to be in this down-at-the-mouth economy.

NEW MOVES. The pundits are also commenting that the loss of Ted Kennedy's Senate seat to a Republican in Massachusetts has caught political ears, and the job issue is now front and center. Closely follow the jobs-program options being discussed in Washington and be ready to follow up on any that you fit, even if it means relocating.

One of the best current proposals -- an idea offered by two senators, a Democrat and a Republican -- is pure common sense. (What took them so long?) Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, propose that any private-sector employer that hires someone who had been unemployed for at least 60 days not have to pay its 6.2 percent Social Security payroll tax on that employee for the duration of 2010.

The motivational benefit of this proposal is a winner: It will jump-start hiring sooner rather than later. A $60,000 worker hired on Feb. 1 would save a business about $3,400 in taxes, while that same worker hired on May 1 will save it about $2,500, the senators say.

Workers would have to be hired for at least 30 hours a week. No relatives can be hired. No fire-and-hire-back-immediately shenanigans are allowed.

Taxpayers benefit as well: The senators say that the reduction in Social Security taxes collected for this year would be more than offset by increased revenues collected from the newly hired.

So here's a new tip to use if this bipartisan payroll-tax break becomes law: Clip a news story about it and be sure that any business where you want to work sees the clipping as you restart your stalled job hunt.

Google for the tax break proposal's details: "A Payroll Tax Break for Jobs" New York Times.

ONE LAST POINT. It's unclear to me whether under this payroll-tax break proposal American companies will be prohibited from chasing cheap labor by offshoring jobs or onshoring visa workers. Calls to Schumer and Hatch's offices were unreturned at deadline.

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