Page last updated at 12:33 GMT, Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Unemployment: real life stories

The number of people out of work in the UK is continuing to edge towards two million, the latest official figures show.

Unemployment hit 1.86 million in the three months to October - the highest level since 1997. Several companies have announced big job cuts as the economic downturn begins to hit hard.

Three people who have lost their jobs tell the BBC about their experiences.

BEN CHAMBERLAIN, 26, LONDON

Lehman Brothers trader Ben Chamberlain describes how he lost his job

Ben was one of those made redundant by the investment bank, Lehman Brothers.

After working as a property derivatives trader for nearly two years, he was surprised to be told that he was being made redundant.

"I was being bit naive, I didn't realise that I was being made redundant. I had thought I could get a another job internally but then I realised it was bigger.

"After that, I just went outside for a walk to clear my head and came back another day to pick up my things".


I've got my redundancy money for the moment which should keep me going for another six months, if I live frugally

Ben Chamberlain

Many of Ben's colleagues managed to get jobs with other investment banks relatively quickly, but six months on he's still finding it quite tough and hopes to find some work quickly.

"I worked for a while as a strategy consultant but the work ended. For the moment I'm volunteering at (drug and alcohol treatment charity) AddAction".

"I've got my redundancy money for the moment which should keep me going for another six months, if I live frugally."

Although some days are worse than others when job hunting Ben remains hopeful about getting a new job soon.


JOHN BASHFORD, 61, REIGATE, SURREY

John Bashford

John is concerned that age may be against him in his hunt to find a new job.

On Friday this week he will leave Gatwick Airport where he has worked for a private company for the past 8 years, but he has already applied for five jobs and had two replies.

"I can't help thinking that if an employer is faced with a 30-year-old with the same qualifications as myself, they'll go for the younger man," he says.

But John is determined to remain positive and cast his net wide.

Currently he is a security specialist checking for explosives and bomb making ingredients in cargo waiting for export.

I may be an older candidate but actually I have a much more mature attitude to work than when I was younger
John Bashford

But he has had a range of jobs in the past including running his own pet shops and as a marketing manager.

"I'm not expecting to get a job in my current field which is quite specialist and I am not setting my sights too high," he says.

"I can turn my hand to a number of things. I'm looking for a job in sales or as a driver, that sort of thing."

John admits that he was angry when he first heard the news of his impending redundancy just three weeks ago.

"We'd been given the impression that everything was OK. I think employers should give much more notice so you can get applications out - instead of saying there's no cause for concern. I'd be much further down the line in my job searching if we had been given some warning."

He lives with his partner, step-children and one step-grandchild so it is important for him to keep working.

"I may be an older candidate but actually I have a much more mature attitude to work than when I was younger."

"I also have sorted out some of those problems that can either distract you at work or affect your confidence. In the past my marriage broke down, I had health problems and I had a business that failed. I must say that things are better now - even if I have just lost my job."

TONY CONNORS, 54, COVENTRY

Tony Connor

After working as a health and safety adviser for an engineering company for more than 34 years, Tony was made redundant in the beginning of October.

And as the sole breadwinner for him and his wife, it has hit him hard.

"I miss the working environment on all sorts of levels but I'm learning you've just got to move on," he says.

Job hunting is tough, and Tony expresses frustration at the lack of work out there, but remains optimistic and has two interviews lined up.

He also believes he has been quite lucky in getting some breathing space after being given a three month mortgage holiday by his building society and his bank raising his overdraft limit.


There will be no Christmas presents for my children, just for the four grandchildren, but I'm sure they'll understand

Tony Connors

"I've been pleasantly surprised by the help I've got."

Tony is taking night classes in personnel practice, to help expand his skill base and allow him to move into a job in human resources.

"Because of my situation they're supporting me with the tuition fee," he says.

Despite the help and flexibility around, Tony's finances have been hit and Christmas has had to be re-budgeted.

"It just means there will be no presents for my children, just for the four grandchildren, but I'm sure they'll understand."

Tony hopes that he does find work soon, ideally in the area that he has been employed.

Otherwise he fears he may have to review his aspirations.

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