Wall Street Braces for Huge Job Losses

"Obviously a company filing for bankruptcy like this is unprecedented, but people understand this is a volatile business and there's a willingness to take that risk among the people who pursue these jobs," he said. "It really just kind of goes with the territory."

He said that, for now, Lehman employees are being asked to continue coming into work unless instructed otherwise. But, he said, that hasn't stopped some people from packing up family photos and other keepsakes they had kept on their desks -- a precaution they're taking, he said, in case they're locked out of the building at some point -- and starting to look for new employment.

"There's no harm in people shopping around already," he said.

Two other Lehman employees standing outside the building today said they were optimistic about finding new jobs.

DelPrete said that at both Merrill Lynch and Lehman Brothers, investment bankers who have been key to putting together banking deals can expect good job prospects. While Bank of America, she said, will likely hire on Merrill's top bankers, small investment banks and growing foreign banks such as MacQuarie of Australia and the Royal Bank of Canada will also take an interest in recruiting Merrill and Lehman bankers.

Employees Look to New Jobs

Becker said that Fortune 500 companies will also try to lure top bankers to their in-house investment units.

But DelPrete and Becker agreed that support staff such as secretaries could have the hardest time finding new work.

Other lower-paid workers may also soon be hurting. DelPrete said that the restaurant and car service industries that service Lehman and Merrill Lynch will see a drop-off in business.

Becker predicted the airline industry would be affected too.

"Ultimately you have an airline industry that now depends solely on business travel," he said. With fewer business travelers, he said, the industry will suffer further.

While New York City -- home to both Merrill and Lehman's headquarters -- will see its economy impacted the most by the financial sector job losses, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that the city would remain in relatively good shape.

The "vital signs of the city's economy remain strong -- a lot stronger than in much of the rest of the nation," he said during a press conference Monday afternoon.

"New Yorkers have gotten through the ups and downs of Wall Street before, and we will get through this one too," he said.

Whether the individual employees of Merrill Lynch and Lehman get through these downs, however, remains to be seen.

"I have a lot of colleagues who still work [at Lehman]" a former Lehman employee told ABC News. "I feel for them."

ABC News' Eileen Murphy, Bradley Blackburn and Scott Michels contributed to this report.

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