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Unemployed Turn Towards Lower Paying And Unexpected Jobs

By CityTownInfo.com Staff

March 3, 2009

Laid-off workers are applying for jobs wherever available, even when doing so means taking a significant pay cut or working in jobs they never imagined.

The New York Times reports that workers laid off from executive positions are now applying in places like Verizon Wireless call centers, U.P.S. and liquor stores. The article profiles Mark Cooper, who lost his job as the security manager for a Fortune 500 company, and now works as a janitor.

"You're fighting despair, discouragement, depression every day," Cooper told The Times.

Although it's not clear how many professionals have taken lower-paying jobs, statistics indicate that the trend is becoming more common. According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, about 1.7 million people were working part-time in January because they could not find full-time jobs - a 40 percent increase from December 2007. In addition, a spokesman for U.P.S. reported triple the number of applications this last holiday season for jobs sorting and delivering packages.

Ame Arlt, who once earned $165,000 a year working as vice president of brand development at a national media company, now earns $10 to $15 an hour performing data entry. Her paycheck covers her mortgage but nothing else.

"It has been the hardest thing in my life," she told The Times.

The Wall Street Journal reports on another phenomenon becoming more prevalent in tough times: Workers are turning towards the Web to sell their expertise or skills.

Teresa Estes, a licensed mental-health counselor, became an expert on LivePerson.com, where she advises clients around the world for $1.89 per minute. She decided to take her skills online after her private practice dwindled.

"LivePerson is way more lucrative than my private practice," Estes told The Wall Street Journal.

According to Robert LoCascio, chief executive officer of LivePerson, about 200 people apply daily to be experts, up from 120 people a year ago. The Web site has 30,000 registered experts and attracts approximately 100,000 people a year. About 3,500 people work full-time as LivePerson experts.

Similarly, many have turned to Amazon Mechanical Turk, which employs people to perform Web tasks for a variety of companies. Most of the jobs pay just a few pennies, but Efficient MTurkers, as they refer to themselves, can make more than $100 a week doing jobs such as finding someone's e-mail address or labeling images of an animal in a picture.

Keri Knuston, from Louisiana, discovered Mechanical Turk when she needed to cover tuition and fees for her son's college. She now works about 30 hours a week transcribing Web audio and video, earning about $250.

"If I didn't have this money," she told The Wall Street Journal, "we'd be struggling to find what to eat every week."

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