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Job hunting man dons suit, sandwich board

After nine fruitless months of looking for work, Paul Nawrocki turned to a Depression-era tactic to find a job.
Economy Job Hunter
Paul Nawrocki, from Beacon, N.Y., wears a sign as he looks for work near the David Letterman studios in New York.Bebeto Matthews / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

After nine fruitless months of looking for work, Paul Nawrocki turned to a Depression-era tactic to find a job.

Over the past few days the 59-year-old businessman has been walking the sidewalks of midtown Manhattan wearing a suit, a tie, and a large signs that reads, "Almost homeless."

"My unemployment benefits are going to run out in less than a month. I was getting a little panicked and I didn't know what to do," said Nawrocki, who was laid off from his job at a toy company last February.

"Finally I said, 'I'm going to put out a sandwich board and try to sell myself in the city,'" he said. "I had to do something dramatic, because I was getting really discouraged sending my resume out every day, and not getting anywhere."

The sight of a middle-class businessman down on his luck seems to have struck a chord with some New Yorkers.

Nawrocki said he's already landed interviews with recruiters who saw him passing out his resume on the street.

A business news blogger posted an item about him, which led to more coverage on BusinessWeek.com and an interview with the BBC.

Paul Nawrocki, from Beacon, N.Y., wears a sign as he looks for work near the David Letterman studios in New York, Tuesday Nov. 18, 2008. After nine fruitless months of looking for work, Nawrocki has turned to a Depression-era tactic to try to land himself a job. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)Bebeto Matthews / AP

He's gotten encouragement from regular New Yorkers too.

"People here can be very warm here when they see that someone is genuinely vulnerable," said Nawrocki. "I've seen a lot of people look at me and get scared, too. Not of me, but you see it in their eyes. They are thinking, 'Could it come to this? Could this be me someday?'"

Nawrocki, who is married with a daughter just out of college, spent 23 years in the toy industry, mostly as an import operations manager. He made a good salary at his old job, "almost six figures," he said, but has burned through his retirement savings since losing his job at the Sababa Group in February. The company filed for bankruptcy in August.

As for the "almost homeless" line on his sign, "It's not far from the truth," Nawrocki said.

His wife has health problems that limit her ability to work. The family has big health insurance and mortgage payments coming due.

"I don't know what's going to happen if I don't work in the next few weeks," he said.