ABC News made Ken Karpman the face of the recession this week.
Karpman, according to a story on the network, once earned $750,000 a year as an institutional equity sales trader. He drove a Mercedes 500 SL and he, his wife and two children lived in a $500,000, 4,000-square-foot house.
Today, Karpman's house is in foreclosure, his family receives food stamps and he owes more on his Mercedes than it is worth.
And like many other older workers who find themselves strapped for cash, Karpan turned to pizza delivery to help make ends meet. He now uses his Mercedes to deliver pizzas for Mike's Pizza and Deli in Clearwater, earning $7.50 an hour.
"It sucks, but at some point you have to swallow your pride and put food on the table," Karpman told ABC.
Ranks of the involuntary
Karpman isn't alone in his plight. Thousands of workers have turned to the pizza industry for part-time work to ease the pain of a layoff or a cutback in hours or pay, and the industry is welcoming them with open arms.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the ranks of the unemployed grew by 851,000 in February, to 12.5 million, and the unemployment rate rose to 8.1 percent. Over the past 12 months, the number of unemployed has increased by about 5 million, and the unemployment rate has risen by 3.3 percent.
The unemployment rate for adult men was 8.1 percent in February, while the unemployment rate for adult women was 6.7 percent.
And the number of those who worked part time for economic reasons, or "involuntary part time workers," rose by 787,000 in February, reaching 8.6 million. The number of such workers has risen by 3.7 million over the past 12 months, according to BLS statistics.
According to Domino's spokesman Tim McIntyre, his company is always ready to talk with someone looking for part-time work. "As a rule, we're always looking for great people, and the company provides such great opportunities for growth," he said. "Nearly 1,000 of our 1,150 franchise owners in the United States started as delivery drivers or assistant managers."
The company is also aggressively seeking veterans who are looking for growth opportunities after they've served their tours of duty, he said, pointing out that many team members move on to management positions in the corporation or with other franchises.
McIntyre estimates that the average Domino's delivery driver is 35 years old.
"This clearly goes against the stereotype that people have of the teenaged pizza delivery driver," he said. "As you might imagine, for many of these employees, delivery is a secondary job, because they can work at night and we have such flexible hours."
Added benefits Ashley Rathgeber, procurement and research and development manager for Pizza Fusion, estimated about 25 percent of the company's work force is 40 or older. The company is always willing to hire more mature workers. The company has 75 franchises and employs 75 to 100 drivers companywide.
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"We actually have quite a few older drivers because they have great daytime availability," she said. "They also usually have good driving records, which helps with lowering our insurance costs." One of the benefits of hiring older drivers is their business experience, she said.
"I think they have very good customer service skills. Sometimes you get an 18-year-old driver and they may not have the best customer service mindset." Not everyone is seeing many older applicants come through the door, however. David Yudnik of Hot Lips Pizza in Portland, Ore., said his company doesn't have any older drivers. "Our average delivery driver is 25," he said. "I don't hire kids – 19- or 20-year-olds - but it doesn't seem we attract a lot of older applicants." He said he has no bias against hiring older drivers. Part of the reason Hot Lips Pizza doesn't get many older applicants, he thinks, is because the economy in Portland is relatively robust compared to other places in the country. He also thinks some older applicants are not interested in performing the variety of tasks his company expects workers to handle. Instead of delivering pizzas, some days a worker may be assigned to unloading a delivery truck, unpacking boxes or washing dishes. Those requirements may keep older workers from being interested in the job, he said. "We hire people into a general pool and they have some days when they drive and some when they don't drive," Yudnik said.