The good news for business professionals is that employment is picking up for them.

Professional and business services employment has added about 5,000 jobs since bottoming for the year at 573,000 employed in the November-January period, according to state figures.

A support group in Pleasantville for unemployed professionals has seen the increase, with five members getting hired in March after just two in January and one in February, said Christine Berberich, facilitator for the Professional Service Group.

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The challenge for such mainly white collar workers is that job opportunities are seldom in exactly the specialized niche they once occupied, and often are at significantly reduced pay.

Vince Male, one of the five hired in March, formerly was a Delaware Valley food and beverage manager for Kraft Foods, until his division was sold and downsized.

Now he's a driver in the AtlantiCare transportation department.

"I'm 60 years old, and I realized I probably wasn't going to get back into coffee and juice, so I went in another direction," getting a commercial driving license, Male said.

Of the pay difference - more than $40,000 a year previously, now $13 an hour - he said, "At my age and in these times, it works for me." Male, who lives in the Cardiff section of Egg Harbor Township, has no dependents.

He said he looks for other opportunities, "but I'm probably going to stay with AtlantiCare. I found a place that I enjoy being."

Marisol Vazquez-Owen, another of the five in the support group hired in March, stayed in the mortgage banking field, but as a temp working for Wells Fargo in its Linwood offices.

She said temp work only pays half what she used to make at the Galloway Township office of American Mortgage, which disappeared in a 2008 reorganization.

"You've got to be able to give up and take whatever you can get and be happy for it," Vazquez-Owen said.

She said temp work is one of the few paths to permanent employment in her industry right now, and the company is considering her for such a position.

She said the Professional Service Group helped her get over "feeling like a failure for not being able to regain employment right away. ... I went in and saw other people more qualified than I am and thought, well, I guess I'm not alone."

The recession has multiplied demand for PSG's help with such things as job searching, resumes and elevator speeches.

Berberich said the group had 15 members in January 2008, shortly after she started in the One Stop Career Center in Pleasantville. Today it has 59 members.

Lately the group has been able to get local television coverage of employment issues and its members with a short segment running with the 5 p.m. news Wednesdays on WMGM-TV 40 in Linwood. The segment is produced with a $28,000 grant from the local Workforce Investment Board.

One of a dozen Professional Service Groups in the state (another is in Vineland), the group meets once a week to hear speakers, network and support each other's efforts to find employment.

Often that means coming to terms with changes in the career path.

Carol Steinhauser was a microbiologist with IGI Inc. of Buena, testing raw materials and finished products, until she and several others were let go in a reorganization in June, she said.

A resident of the Smithville section of Galloway Township with two children in college, Steinhauser has expanded her search for a new lab job to Philadelphia and central New Jersey, where her parents live.

But that may not be enough, she realized, so she's pursuing a master's degree in business administration through Rutgers University's program at Atlantic Cape Community College in Mays Landing to broaden her career and employment prospects.

Walter Bodkin, another member of the group, was having a bad decade even before the recession hit.

A vice president of sales with CBS and its acquirer, Westinghouse, in New York and then Chicago, Bodkin resigned in 2002 in conjunction with "a major divorce that cost me more than $1 million."

In 2007, he tried managing five Boardwalk stores in Ocean City, where he lives on 14th Street. When that didn't work out, he got a temporary job with the census.

Most recently, Bodkin said, he's done contract work for Anastasia International Inc., a Bangor, Maine-based international dating service.

"I'm taking U.S. men on tours to Ukraine to introduce them to Russian women they've corresponded with over the Internet, sometimes for years," he said.

He said that work was good, but nothing like his career days with the television network, so he's still looking for something in sales and marketing.

"To all of a sudden go from there to here is a rough deal," Bodkin said, "but I'll be fine."

Ed Einhaus would welcome work in marketing as well, or public relations, or in his specialty in particular: real estate development.

For 18 years, Einhaus was director of real estate for the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority. Then, in March 2009, he and another person lost their jobs in a restructuring.

He said a big value of the Professional Service Group is that it gives members the chance to use their abilities and keep them fresh.

"The activities of this group are largely member-driven," Einhaus said.

"That helps us sharpen our communication and marketing skills, which are real good exercises in preparing us for the next job," he said.

(To reach the Professional Service Group in Pleasantville call 609-645-6602. For the PSG in Vineland, call 856-696-6293.)

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