10 resumes a day, no takers

Mortgage underwriter Joshua Hager saw the writing on the wall and started looking for a new job in November. Now out of work, he's trying to get his foot back in the door of a financial firm.

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By Tami Luhby, CNNMoney.com senior writer

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Joshua Hager, out of work since February, is hustling to find a job.
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NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- A week ago, Joshua Hager was despondent. Laid off by a mortgage company, he has looked for jobs ranging from bank teller to risk analyst. He was sending out as many as 10 resumes a day but was getting barely a nibble from employers or recruiters.

This week, things are are looking up. Hager, a Jersey City, N.J., resident, went on one interview for a fraud investigator job at a mortgage insurance company and another for a position underwriting employee dishonesty insurance. Executives at the latter told him they'd make a decision within 10 days.

He doesn't know what next week will bring.

"It's always flowed for me," said Hager, 29, who discovered his love of math and finance in high school in Proctorville, Ohio, about three hours southeast of Columbus. "I've always had a job and every time I changed jobs, it was for advancement. Now, it's like 'What do I do with myself because I can't wait for that next step.' "

Hager has joined nearly 125,000 others on Wall Street and at mortgage firms and other financial companies who received pink slips since the start of 2007. It seems that nearly every week another financial firm lets go of thousands of workers at all levels. With the market flooded, it's hard for the unemployed to land a job, experts said.

Every time he turns on the television, Hager worries that he'll hear of more layoffs. He shuddered when he learned that JPMorgan Chase would acquire Bear Stearns, which employs 14,000 staffers.

"How many people will be swamping the job market?" he said. "Everybody in finance will be looking for a job."

It used to be easy

Not too long ago, it was easy to land work in real estate or finance. After spending three years in the Navy, Hager joined the booming mortgage industry in 2003, signing on with Countrywide Financial Corp. (CFC, Fortune 500) in Tampa, Fla., as a junior loan processor. Within a year, he was promoted to underwriter, a job he loved because it allowed him to analyze borrowers' applications and determine how risky it would be to lend to them.

For instance, during the mortgage frenzy's height, when stated-income loans became all the rage, one applicant he reviewed said that he was a school engineer making $5,000 a month. A quick call revealed he was actually the janitor making about $1,600. Hager said he did not approve the application, the same decision he made on about half those that crossed his desk.

Last February, Hager transferred to a Countrywide office in New Jersey to be closer to New York City and to relatives. He moved in with a friend, who owned an apartment in downtown Jersey City, a suburb of the Big Apple.

Two months later, he switched to Aurora Loan Services, a subsidiary of Wall Street investment bank Lehman Brothers (LEH, Fortune 500). In addition to a salary boost, he took on increased responsibility, getting more involved with investigating fraud and doing second reviews on loans.

By the fall, it was clear to Hager that his job was in trouble. Lehman had shuttered its subprime mortgage unit and he figured that his division, which handled so-called Alt-A loans that required little or no income documentation, was next.

As someone who always plans his next step, Hager didn't want to wait until he was laid off to start looking for another job. So he began sending out resumes in November, staying clear of the mortgage and real estate industries. Instead, he focused on insurance underwriting positions.

After applying for more than 100 jobs and getting only two interviews, he realized he had to broaden his search. By that time, he was out of a job, one of 1,300 people at Aurora that were let go in late February. Starting to get more desperate, he branched out to consumer credit analysis at companies such as American Express or Mastercard.

Just trying to find a way in

With the job fairs, networking events and resume blasts yielding little, Hager found he had to set his sights lower and lower. In mid-March, he began exploring bank teller postings.

"The strategy is continually changing," Hager said. "You are trying to think of a way to get your foot in the door."

For now, Hager has enough money to get by, though he's starting to worry. The $1,900 he collects every month in unemployment is a far cry from the $4,600 he took home while he was working, but his expenses are relatively low. He pays $600 a month for his share of the apartment, though the maintenance is going up. He's signing up for veterans benefits so he can get health insurance since he can't afford COBRA. Also, his parents have said they would help him out.

If the economy weren't on the rocks, Hager feels he'd be able to land a job more easily. Companies are posting jobs, but they don't seem to be hiring, he said. He still sees notices from September that have gone unfilled. And it takes weeks for executives to respond, if they do at all.

"The consumer dictates what employers do and no one is spending money," Hager said. "Employers don't want anybody right now because no one wants products or services."

How is the economy affecting your everyday life? Tell us about how your money situation has changed - or stayed the same - in the last few months. What's your biggest economic worry? Send us your photos and videos, or email us and share your story.  To top of page

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