The white-collar workers being hit hardest by recession

As unemployment hits 2.2 million, professionals are bearing the brunt. MT met some at Bristol job centre.

by Emma De Vita

Down a scruffy side-road in Bristol's city centre, opposite Chambers Lap Dancing Club, lies the fading art deco office block that houses the city's main job centre. Outside, a pair of grey-faced hoodies are smoking. The doors are opened by one of a number of security guards on patrol. Step inside and you're hit by the fluorescent brightness and relentless plastic cheer of an Ikea store.

Job centres have changed since the '80s. The sticky carpet, dingy furniture and hand-written job cards are gone. Today, there are welcome desks, computerised job points and smartly turned out, smiley staff. The unemployed are 'clients', but despite the best efforts of the Department for Work and Pensions to learn the art of customer service, the atmosphere is grim. This is not a place anyone would choose to spend a Thursday morning. It's where you go when you lose your job.

There's a neat queue at the welcome desks and it's easy to spot the newly redundant - those white-collar workers who have probably never set foot in a job centre before. They stand out in their appearance, with their Hackett rugby shirts, chinos and deck shoes. They look ill-at-ease. Mark, 42, is from Cardiff but has lived in Bristol for 20 years. He doesn't want to give his surname or be photographed, such is his embarrassment at having been made redundant twice in six months. A graduate, he had a lucrative career as a sales recruitment consultant earning up to £60,000 a year, but lost his job in October after the agency he'd worked for for 18 years went into administration. He found a new post in recruitment in February, but lost it after just six weeks when the company was forced to halve its number of staff.

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