People looking for work, or a better position than the one they have now, have reason to be optimistic that it won't be long before they land their dream job - or at least one that pays the bills.

A report released Wednesday says laid off workers are finding jobs faster than in the last major economic downturn, and recruitment firms are reporting a pick-up in the pace of hiring across Canada.

What's more, a wage thaw is in the works as many employers look to boost salaries in 2010, according to a separate compensation study.

CIBC World Markets said in a report Wednesday that many Canadians who lost their jobs in recent months found a new one almost as fast as people did before the recession hit.

The report shows the average duration of unemployment is currently 15 weeks in Canada, just one week higher than the pre-recession level of 14 weeks. It's also way below the 20-week level during the 1991 recession.

While Canada's rising unemployment rate, now at 8.7 per cent, is expected to rise further, CIBC senior economist Benjamin Tal said there's a silver lining for many of the unemployed.

He said workers are either landing new jobs, or starting their own businesses, which also fares well for the economic recovery.

"Something is happening here," said Tal. "As opposed to every other recession and the situation in the U.S., the duration of unemployment was relatively stable during this recession so far."

Tal is predicting Canada will skip the so-called "jobless recovery" seen after the last recession in the early 90s, when companies halted hiring for years despite an improving economy.

"A jobless recovery is not pretty," Tal said. "This is actually a positive signal that we might end up with a more normal recovery. ... The economy is more dynamic this time around."

John Perry, vice-president for the Vancouver region at David Aplin Recruiting, said he has noticed a pick-up in the time it takes people to find jobs in recent months, albeit a small one.

Earlier this year, he said it took about an average of eight to 12 weeks for someone with the right set of skills to find another job. In recent months, Perry said that timeline has shrunk to about 10 weeks.

"Our activity levels are going up, which means employers' activity levels are going up," said Perry. "It's not a huge lift, but the sentiment is better. It's more positive."

Lewis Rusen, a leadership and talent consultant at Korn Ferry International recruiters, said many companies are thinking seriously again about hiring, even those that have cut back.

"They are beginning to start rebuilding," Rusen said.

He said many firms are also looking at "upgrading" their staff, which means finding managers and other workers who better suit jobs that may have changed as a result of the recession.

"They are looking through a different lens now and maybe even more critically," he said.

Canadian employers are also planning to pay more next year, according to a report released Wednesday by the Mercer consulting firm.

The 2010 Canadian Compensation Planning Survey, which polled 500 employers nationwide, said companies plan to give an average base pay increase of 2.7 per cent in 2010.

That's up from actual increases of two per cent awarded in 2009, the survey shows.

The survey said a key driver in the rebounding figures is a "salary thaw," which is expected to take place after about one-third of companies froze salaries in 2009.

Only eight per cent of companies surveyed said they plan to freeze salaries next year, the survey said.

The annual survey reflects pay practices for more than 870,000 non-unionized employees.

"There are a number of signs that organizations are in recovery mode," Mercer's Iain Morris said in releasing the results.

Of the companies that plan to award increases, the all-employee average is three per cent for 2010, he said.

"But it's important to note that about 30 per cent of employers are undecided on next year's salary budgets," Morris added.

"Many are still taking a wait-and-see approach to planning for next year. This degree of indecision on salary increase plans at this time of year is unusual. All eyes will be on the business results in the balance of 2009."

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