HERE'S A STRANGE statistic for you: in the past three years, over 2 million job-hunters--by the most conservative estimate--turned to a book for help during their search for work. I don't mean any one particular book or title. But they turned to some book related to their quest.

It is a strange spectacle, on the face of it. In the midst of pounding the pavement the job-hunter stops to read a book. Does he or she think there will be a list of the available jobs in this book or that? Apparently not, although over the years some authors have tried to put out books containing such lists--not very successfully, in my opinion.

Well, then, what kind of information do job-hunters seek in a book? Information, first of all, about the general mechanics of how to find a job in America: What avenues pay off, what avenues don't, that sort of thing. Such books as Tom Jackson's Guerrilla Tactics in the Job Market, Bernard Haldane's How To Make a Habit of Success, Richard Irish's Go Hire Yourself An Employer and my own book owe their popularity to the needs for this kind of overview.

Next, job-hunters turn to a book for guidance in writing a resume--if they have concluded a resume is necessary. The most helpful book on this topic, according to the testimony of countless job- hunters with whom I have talked, is Richard Lathrop's Who's Hiring Who. Another currently popular member of the genre is Tom Jackson's new title, The Perfect Resume.

Most job-seekers also feel they need some guidance in the area of interviewing. General books on job-hunting usually give this subject at least a glancing blow. But there are also titles devoted solely to interviewing, the most popular of which is H. Anthony Medley's current Sweaty Palms: The Neglected Art of Being Interviewed.

Salaries are, predictably, another area in which job-hunters want some guidance. Until recently, books on this subject have been hard to find. However, with the appearance of David Harrop's fascinating Paychecks: Who Makes What in 1980, the door was opened. Now we also have such informative books as John W. Wright's recently published The American Almanac of Jobs and Salaries and Thelma Kandel's most intriguing What Women Earn.

Inevitably job-hunters need information about jobs available in specific localities. And there are books published about the job market in, say, New York, or Los Angeles, or places in between. But even more helpful for those willing to move, Rand McNally just this past year put out a splendid survey by Richard Boyer and David Savageau called The Places Rated Almanac: Your Guide to Finding the Best Places to Live in America. Their subtitle is nearly identical to the title of another 1981 book on the same subject, Thomas F. Bowman's, George Giuliani's and M. Ronald Minge's Finding Your Best Place to Live in America. It too gathers a lot of helpful information between two covers.

Those who, for one reason or another, decide to use their job-hunting period (read "unemployment," in many cases) as an occasion for trying what they have always dreamed of trying--self-employment--often turn to a book before they plunge in. There are a veritable army of books on the subject. Be sure to browse carefully before you buy. Some authors who shall remain nameless have done little more than reprint free government publications in fancier print with a fancier cover, and a much fancier price. You could save yourself a lot of grief (and money) by simply going to the Small Business Administration and looking over all their stuff. There is, however, one author I would recommend if you are considering self-employment--Jay Conrad Levinson whose thoughts you may find provocative and helpful. Levinson explained his theories in both his Earning Money Without a Job and in his forthcoming 555 Ways to Earn Extra Money. He calls his theories "patchwork economics" or "modular economics," and what he suggests is that you contemplate putting several part-time jobs together, rather than pursuing one line of endeavor.

During the job-hunt, or an extended period of unemployment, money can be quite a problem. If hard times stay with us for a lengthy spell, books on this subject will be appearing frequently. Currently, however, there are none I can with confidence recommend on the economics of unemployment. Bookstores have always carried several good family budgeting books, which will suggest ways to make money stretch during extended unemployment. If supplemental income becomes a must, Levinson's book and others like it may offer suggestions.

What other information do job-seekers want? Well, there are always Groups That Feel They Have Special Problems. Students, for one. Middle-aged executives, for another. For comfort, students can turn to Robert J. Ginn's forthcoming The College Graduate's Career Guide, William N. Yeomans' Jobs '82- '83, Brett Kingstone's The Student Entrepreneur's Guide: How To Start And Run Your Own Part Time Small Business, and L. Malnig's and S. Morrow's What Can I Do With A Major In?

Executives for years turned to Carl Boll's classic Executive Jobs Unlimited (updated in 1979), and--more recently--to John Wareham's Secrets of A Corporate Headhunter, and Richard German's and Peter Arnold's Bernard Haldane Associates Job & Career Building.

When people are job-hunting, they need a friend. A book--especially a paperback book--is an inexpensive way of importing such a friend, and getting him to tell you all he knows. Since the job search is in essence an information search, every bit of information helps. It is therefore not at all strange that so many job-hunters are pausing to read a book.