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Trading Down: Taking A Pay Cut After A Layoff -- HuffPost Readers' Stories

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On Tuesday, The Huffington Post published a story documenting a disturbing post-recession trend: for many unemployed workers, finding a new job can mean a significant step down the professional ladder. For those lucky enough to find new work -- any work -- their old careers and lives often remain out of reach.

(Scroll down for HuffPost readers' stories)

More than 8.84 million private sector jobs were lost during the downturn. Despite steady job creation this year, there are still more than four unemployed workers for every job opening. The job recovery has also been cruelly uneven. A full 40 percent of the jobs lost during the downturn came from high-wage industries -- yet high-wage industries accounted for only 14 percent of the new positions created in the first year of the recovery, according to a report released in February by the National Employment Law Project.

We asked HuffPost readers to answer basic questions: have you had to take a lower-paying job because of the financial crisis? Have you had to switch industries, accept a big change in quality of life, relocate or cut back?

The response was overwhelming. More than a year into the recovery, our readers' responses offer a sharp counterweight to newspaper headlines proclaiming the labor market recovery is "gaining traction."

One response described a reader's path from making $90,000 a year as an executive for an entertainment company to making minimum wage at a sewing store. After several months, she received a job offer as the office manager for a one-person law firm, making $50,000 a year. "Ironically, this was nearly the same job I had when I was putting myself through college to earn my bachelor's degree. So, I've come round circle career-wise," she wrote.

Many readers described the shock they felt when the industry they spent their life working in was decimated and the uncertainty they felt when trying to start over in an unfamiliar field.

"Started out as tech writer, industry disappeared, went through 2nd grad program to become licensed counselor, jobs required to become licensed have disappeared, have been walking dogs," reader elljayo wrote, tracking a downgrade from $80,000 a year, to $10,000. "Can't afford to pay off loans...Surviving-but that's all."

Echoed through many replies is the feeling of loss -- not just of a decent paycheck -- but of the sense of security, purpose and direction that a career provides.

"[I]t is hard at the age of 45, after more than a dozen years of success, to feel like you are starting at the bottom again," wrote reader RBB05, who was making $150,00 as a radio manager but is now making half that at his new position. "At least back then, it was just me. Now it is my wife and 12-year-old daughter going along for the ride. When I do go to work in the morning there are days when I wake up invigorated and glad to be doing anything. Then there are days when I pray for a call, any call, that lifts me anywhere close to the world I used to be in."

Disturbingly, many HuffPost readers said they were barely hanging on and struggling to make ends meet.

"Depending on where they started on the economic ladder," said Carl van Horn, a labor economist at Rutgers University who studies the effects of long-term unemployment and trading down in the workplace, "that downward mobility can be somewhere from inconvenient to actually pushing them into poverty."

Read more HuffPost Reader responses below:

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