Stumped By The Slump

This recession was born in a new way, and it continues to surprise wonks and workers alike

With half his department recently laid off and his employer's budget for next year shrinking, Randy Holyfield, an executive for a nonprofit group in Highlands Ranch, Colo., was desperately seeking a safety net. He found one in his home. Holyfield refinanced his mortgage at the lowest rates in 30 years, cashing out a $40,000 cushion while holding his monthly payment steady. "The newspapers say unemployment is still low," offers Holyfield, 43. "Well, I have friends out of work, and others who had to leave the state for a job. It's worse than the numbers indicate."

Millions of homeowners are doing what...

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