EDITOR'S TAKE: At least you don't work in the real economy

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It's very vogue to recommend that bankers reinvent themselves as engineers/plumbers/pizza deliverers, but just don't rush into anything.

When recruitment firm Michael Page released its first quarter trading update this week, it transpired that things aren't that bad after all.

Michael Page's stats suggested financial services hiring was down 37% year on year in the first quarter of 2009. This is bad. But hiring in 'legal, technology, HR and secretarial' was down 42%. And hiring in 'marketing, sales and retail' was down 48%.

Admittedly, the engineering sector so beloved of amateur career advisors wasn't impacted quite as badly (down 18%), but as the recession spreads, who's to say it won't be next. In the meantime, as Steve Ingham, Michael Page chief executive, pointed out, financial services was the first industry to go into the downturn and it may be the first one to come out.

Until then, official figures suggest the unemployment rate in the financial sector is low. Just 6% of US finance workers are out of work. The most recent figures for the UK (4Q08) say only 3.9% of people from banking and insurance are on the dole. This compares to 6.6% of construction workers and 6.3% of people formerly employed in hotels.

The unemployment rate in the City is obviously a little above 4%. Richard Snook, senior economist at the Centre for Economics and Business Research is predicting a peak (2007) to trough (2010) fall in City-type employment of 350,000 to 290,000. So far, Snook says slightly fewer than half these jobs have gone, suggesting around 9% of City people are now unemployed.

If Snook's right, City unemployment could rise to 20% in future - but this would assume that anyone losing their job over the four year period hung on looking for something similar. Instead, lots of people seem to be leaving to become engineers, teachers, etc. They may not be able to find a job very easily, but having left the City they are unlikely to come back soon. And this is very, very good thing for everyone who stays behind.

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