What with thousands of redundancies and disappearing revenues, you could be forgiven for thinking that bankers who lose their jobs in the current environment won't work again for a very long time. This isn't strictly true.
First (as ever), the bad news: Lehman Brothers is the latest to rejoin the redundancy parade, with a round of further job cuts, said to be imminent.
But now, the good news: banks may not be hiring nearly as many people as they did over the past few years, but they are still hiring.
Last week's research from Morgan McKinley may have shown there were nearly 3,000 more candidates than jobs in April, but it did at least also show there were nearly 9,000 jobs on offer in the City.
And before you cry that Morgan McKinley is a back and middle office-focused recruiter and all those jobs are for product controllers and risk managers, there are also hiring hot spots in the front office.
Hedge funds, private banks, infrastructure funds hiring
Hedge funds are still going hell for leather. A few weeks ago, the head of one search firm told me he'd been handed 10 mandates for 'managing director-level' roles at one large international fund.
Private banks are also hiring fervently, as are infrastructure funds and restructuring teams. Distressed debt will surely be next.
Admittedly, none of this is great news if you specialise in leveraged finance, structured credit, capital markets, or even M&A - the same search firm head who'd been handed those hedge fund mandates said he'd had three MD searches in M&A advisory pulled in one week.
Reinvention, relegation, R&R
Faced with the dearth of jobs, bankers in dead areas have three fundamental choices: reinvention, relegation, or R&R.
Reinvention is easiest at junior levels: infrastructure funds are apparently prepared to hire junior bankers if they have the 'right personality' and the right modelling skills.
Relegation is equally a possibility, with lower-tier firms and boutiques seeking to take advantage of cuts in the top tier. Numis and Nomura have both said they want to hire. Citigroup's head of European TMT is voluntarily (it appears) leaving for a boutique.
R&R is rational if you have the financial wherewithal to sit out until markets return. Hence the rash of recent sabbaticals.
At some point, hiring will pick up again. There are already vague signs that ABS and even CDOs are trying to come back from the dead.
It's also worth remembering that banks didn't hire - or did hire, and then let go of - junior analysts and associates back in 2001 and 2002. They then had to pay a premium for that cohort when markets picked up again.
In the same way, structured credit specialists and financial sponsors bankers could find themselves sought after once their ranks are thinned. The Financial Times warned last week that the exodus from the financial sponsor space risks creating a talent shortage in future.
Of the three options given above, relegation at whatever price may therefore be the best option right now. It will, at least, allow you to stay in the market. And in the long term, once everyone else has quit, that could pay off.