June 30, 2010 -- Fred Sherrod is one of the many faces of the lingering recession.
He's 52 years old, a highly experienced account manager in the middle of his career, and he's been looking for work for a year and a half.
"It affects one's pride, it affects a lot of people in different ways," Sherrod said. "It's difficult to go out and look for a job and wonder sometimes if age isn't a factor of why it's not happening."
Startling research released by the Pew Center for Research found that Sherrod is one of the 55 percent of Americans who have faced unemployment, experienced a cut in pay, a reduction in hours or have become involuntary part-time workers.
Middle-Aged Workers Hit Hard
Middle aged workers like Sherrod have been hit particularly hard. According to the survey, workers between the age of 50 and 64 were most likely to have felt the pinch during this recession. The latest research also showed that blacks and Hispanics have been hit disproportionately hard by the recession, a double whammy against the African-American Sherrod.
At a time in his life when Sherrod thought he'd be earning the most from his career, he's two months away from running out of unemployment benefits and losing his health insurance. He's spending the last few dollars in his savings account to survive.
Today, Sherrod went to a technical school north of Atlanta, Georgia, to learn new skills.
"It's very easy to get into that [mentality] of saying why should I get up and get motivated to do this when I have so many days and so many months and the end result is still the same," he said. "But I'm not the type that gives up, so I get up in the morning, I get motivated and I do what I need to do to try to find a new position," he said.
Unemployed Stretch Across Country
Sherrod is not alone. Outside of Chicago, Barry Scott has been out of work for nearly two years.
"I've had about 70 first interviews, phone interviews, screening interviews," Scott said. "I've been the top two, top three candidate in several positions."
Never the top candidate, Scott's hope is wearing thin. ABC News first met Scott in March of this year. At that time, he'd already put in 300 job applications and was flirting with finding work abroad.
The authors of the Pew study wrote in the report that no recession since the Great Depression has "presented a more punishing combination of length, breadth and depth than this one."
Scott didn't imagine that months later, he'd still be unemployed.
"I guess I was hoping a job would come through," he said. "I came so close to several, I kept thinking something was coming."
Since nothing has come, Scott and his family have had to file for bankruptcy. He's now painting houses, relying on the generosity of his neighbors and trying desperately to keep it together.
"We'll probably have to be out of the house by the end of the year if we can't wait to modify the loan," he said.
Every three or four weeks, Scott said, someone puts a few hundred dollars in his family's mailbox. He doesn't know who it is.
"Friends or people out of the woodwork have come up and just given us a check and it's amazing," Scott said, overwhelmed by emotion. "Things we used to do are now coming back to us."
For so many, the hard part is just getting up in the morning and facing the same rejection, day after day, and remaining hopeful.
Back in Georgia, Sherrod said he hasn't lost hope.
"It will change, it will get better, it will happen, otherwise there's a big part of the middle class that won't exist anymore," Sherrod said.
Sherrod's optimism is shared by Scott.
"I get up each day and I try to first off remember that I'm blessed beyond measure if you will," he said.