NEW YORK – The bar was crowded with well-dressed professionals enjoying drinks and conversation, a typical evening — except that many of them had no job.
The event was a Wall Street Pink Slip Party, where the unemployed mix with recruiters and curious bystanders to network, look for work, and share their stories.
With employers shedding 600,000 more jobs in January, the undercurrent at this party in a Manhattan bar was decidedly glum.
"Wall Street, directly or indirectly, has ruined the best 10 years of my life," said Susan Lange, speaking of colleagues and friends she lost on Sept. 11, 2001, and the sense now, after being laid off from her job as an AIG training manager, that her world has again turned on its head.
"I'm devastated," the 39-year-old woman said.
Figures released Friday showed that the unemployment rate hit 7.6 in January, a month with more layoffs than at any other time since 1974.
Jobseekers are gathering in bars, delving into the business networking Web site LinkedIn, waiting in lines at city help centers, and even starting up hopeful conversations with prosperous-looking strangers on commuter trains — all in the hope of landing jobs in what seems to be a shrinking pool of opportunity.
"Places have hiring freezes. And they have cutbacks. And they have layoffs. There are a lot more people in the job market," said 32-year-old Ana Arrendell, who has been searching for work since August.
At first, she was looking only for a job in her field, graphic design. But as the months have gone by, Arrendell has lowered her expectations. "Right now, I'll take anything," she said Friday as she left a New York City-run office that offers resume-writing assistance and interview training.
Already having given up hope for a Wall Street job making $80,000 per year right out of college, recent graduate David Gunther is getting creative as he tries to expand his business network.
The 23-year-old has begun hanging around commuter ferries and suburban trains, chatting up professional-looking types traveling to areas where executives live. Recently, at an electronica concert — a wildly different atmosphere than at the career services office at his university — he talked to some fans who introduced him to an entertainment-industry manager. Now he's preparing for a job interview with the man.
Gunther isn't the only one looking for new ways to meet people. Among the groups using the networking service Meetup, the NYC Job Seekers & Career Strategy group has more than doubled in size to 454 people since September, with more than 95 joining since the first of the year. Worldwide, Meetup has seen a boom in career-related groups; more than 2,000 were started in January, compared to about 500 a month over the summer, said spokesman Andres Glusman.
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