Here's a startling statistic: According to a new Labor Department survey, half of all Americans laid off from 2007 through 2009 remain out of work by January 2010. That's the lowest percentage since the survey began in 1984.
You may have also heard that more than 40 percent of the 15 million unemployed have been out of work more than six months. That's also a record high set during the recession. The new survey shows that most of those employers now require new skills and new job duties for those positions, so even though job openings exist in your old field, you may no longer qualify for them.
(See http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101011/ap_on_bi_ge/us_tougher_jobs_5 .)
One recruiter, Rita Ashley, says that employers are not hiring "older" workers (50 +) because they are inferior and possess substandard skills. (see http://jobsearch4execs.com/2010/10/05/why-boomers-dont-get-hired/ ). The new survey and recent news suggests otherwise: employers are requiring existing workers to do more after cutbacks, and they don't want to rehire, despite record profits. For instance, they may require CPAs to do bookeeping and secretarial work, or they may require the public relations specialist to do marketing. Tech companies are now combining business analyst and system analyst positions into one job.
That's why American workers today are doing two, three or more jobs and working longer hours, but still afraid they will get laid off. Employers are squeezing more from their staffs to do more with less.