The very middle class dole queue: Jobseekers describe their first taste of unemployment

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They are the human faces of the credit crunch. 

This was the sobering scene just after breakfast time in suburban South-East London yesterday when the local JobCentre opened its doors at 9.30am.

On the day that unemployment reached 1.86million, the snapshot of those seeking work starkly illustrates the middle class backgrounds of those being thrown out of work.

The Daily Mail spoke to a string of well-qualified business analysts, teachers, marketing consultants, recruitment managers and personal assistants - all of whom are experiencing unemployment for the first time.

All had previously enjoyed the benefits of good jobs but are now facing the stark reality of no work for the New Year.

Significantly, many were once employed by the building trade - which has been hardest hit by the slump and property market crash. Many of those the Mail spoke to still appeared shocked by their sudden unemployment.

Father of two Jonathan Birss, 40, a former business analyst who once earned up to £100,000 a year, was signing on for the first time after losing his job when a major IT contract came to an end.

Mr Birss, if Chislehurst, Kent, said: 'Signing on feels a lot like failure. It's the last thing I've ever wanted to do, I just want to provide for my family and it's not really possible at the moment. It's demoralising and humiliating.'

Francoise Raingeard, 58, a former personal assistant who earned £32,000, has been signing on for two months. She lost her job after the Government-backed postal watchdog, Postwatch merged.

She said: 'There are jobs available, it's just that too many people are applying for them.'

She has made more than 80 job applications but had only one interview in the past month.

Stephen Gibbs, 52, a former building site manager earning £50,000, was signing on for the first time. He was made redundant earlier this year, having been laid off after 35 years in the industry while younger workers on a lower salary were kept on.

He has no children but cares for his elderly father. His wife is a part-time youth worker.

Because he registered as self-employed 18 months ago, Mr Gibbs has been denied the dole for another six weeks.

He said: 'I think it's disgusting. Some people have never worked. I've worked hard all my life and paid taxes but now, when I really need it, I get nothing.

'I have been prudent with my savings but they are depleting quickly. I still have to pay the £600 mortgage each month on the house and it's getting increasingly difficult.' continues here

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