Record Layoffs Send Workers Job Hunting

With the recession hitting hard, companies are handing out record pink slips.

Oct. 22, 2008— -- For 21 years, Michael Raynor, husband and father from New Jersey, has worked in finance. But with the looming economic recession, his job has now been cut; his last paycheck comes next week.

"This is the first time I've ever not had a job," Raynor said. "And I'm 45 years old."

Raynor, met with New York based career counselor, Judith Gerberg, to help him find work. Meanwhile, his wife, Roseanne, is also job hunting, forced to go back to work after a decade at home with the children.

"My wife, believe it or not, had a job interview today, and just called me to say she believes it went fantastic," Raynor said with enthusiasm.

The couple is among the hundreds of thousands of American workers who have been forced to find work after their own job was cut or after their spouse lost his or her job.

For months, finance and home construction jobs have been eliminated, but it has spread far beyond to manufacturing, retail and even technology and digital industries.

"We've lost 150,000 [jobs] last month alone," said Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute. "That will continue, concentrated in the housing-related sector, manufacturing, but really throughout the economy."

On Tuesday, Yahoo announced it would cut at least 10 percent of its 14,000 work force. PepsiCo plans to cut 3,000 jobs. Best Buy plans to cut seasonal hires by as many as 10,000 workers.

It seems as though the recession is hitting harder and faster than past downturns. Economists say there's a reason: the economy is shrinking and companies were already lean.

"For most employers there's little cushion, because they already had very few employees for the work they were doing," explained Mishel. "So, as the economy shrinks, we're going to see large-scale cutbacks -- not temporary lay-offs, but people permanently losing their jobs."

Job losses of this magnitude will bring two more major side effects: highly trained workers will be laid-off and forced to accept jobs that require far less skill, or employ them for far fewer hours.

"As more people are pink slipped or watch their family or friends pink slipped, there is more emphasis on becoming a free agent -- any way to supplement your income," said Tory Johnson, ABC News workplace contributor and CEO of Women for Hire. "But even in some of the traditional places that people used to be able to turn to, for example, retail or even hospitality, waitressing, some of those opportunities right now are not existent."

Johnson said that many companies have looked to freelancers, who often prove to be less expensive and less of a commitment in these rough economic times, than bringing in an employee full time. Experts also expect to see wages for college grads start to fall.

So far, the one industry that has seen expansion is health care. As the baby boomer generation ages, and medical technology continues to grow, new opportunities are cropping up for hire in health care, as administrative assistants, technicians, and non-medical caregivers.

"There's always a demand for health care services, and as long as that happens, the sector is going to expand, become more expensive, but also have more employment," Mishel said.

Still, Raynor hopes to find work in his own field as he and his wife desperately look for jobs in an economy that's given them no other choice.

"I don't have that crystal ball, but all the indicators are this is not going to go away and that, in fact, things can get worse before they get better," Johnson said. "And so, I certainly think we can hope for the best but plan for the worst."