White Collars Join Jobless Ranks

Cal CBS

This is the fifth in a month-long series of reports called "Making Ends Meet" about how families are coping with the tough economy, unemployment and smaller retirement accounts.

"My name is Dorothy."

"Hi Dorothy!"

It sounds like any recovery meeting anywhere in America.

"My name is Daryl."

"Hi Daryl."

But, as CBS News Correspondent Jerry Bowen reports, the problem is not addiction: it's unemployment.

And these are some of America's best and brightest managers and mid-level executives auditioning at Taco Tuesday in Lake Forest, Calif., where hi-tech talents who once earned six-figure salaries are praying for the miracle of six degrees of separation: someone who knows someone who knows someone with a job opening.

"It's been 18 months since I've been out of work," says Michael Murdoch. "In that time I've gone through my reserves."

Software engineer and mother of four Janin Agudelo is nearing a moment of truth.

"If I don't have a job in the next few months, do I sell the house because it's not worth losing all of my retirement savings?" she asks.

The same economic forces that battered blue-collar workers - jobs taken to offshore sites to name one - have blown through the corridors of power. More and more white collar executives who used to hand out the pink slips are instead getting them.

Executive headhunter David Raddin says he has fewer corporations calling him to search for their next boss.

"It is a horrible market," he says. "I'm seeing excellent, top-notch executives on the street who can't get jobs."

Of the 9 million Americans out of work, just over 17 percent are managers or in specialized jobs. The numbers among this group have never been seen before.

"The tensions that I feel personally, my wife and kids feel it," says Cal Laird. "It's a situation of, 'Geez, what's daddy going to do?'"

And Laird's wound is self-inflicted. The Harvard MBA walked away 18 months ago from a $300,000-a-year president's job looking for something more fulfilling. The timing was horrible.

"In normal times the phone would be ringing off the hook," he says.

But the phones are quiet and the e-mails rare for Laird and other former executives who network weekly in search of opportunities. It wasn't supposed to be like this.

"When you see that amount of talent on the benches, that tells me something's out of whack with the economy," says Laird.

Out of whack. Out of work. And hoping for that miracle.
  • Jaime Holguin

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