Will unemployed executives spur the next round of job creation? That could be the case if data released by Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. are any indication. The international outplacement firm reports that 15.1% of unemployed executives who had earned $100,000 or more in their previous positions started their own businesses in the third quarter of 2003. That compares with 11.3% in the previous quarter and 7.8% of out-of-work executives who earned under $100,000. "Jobless top-level executives may prove to be this economy's salvation," notes John A. Challenger, the outplacement firm's CEO. "Start-up activity was a major factor behind the economic expansion in the mid to late 1990s. It will be even more important to this recovery/expansion. The good news is that our survey numbers show an upward trend." The Challenger data are based on a quarterly survey of 3,000 discharged managers and executives across a broad range of industries in the United States.