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SOME ECONOMISTS SAY the white-collar recession is a myth. As in past recessions, they say, blue-collar workers fared far worse than professionals, whose jobless rate is just 2.8%. Plus, job prospects for well-educated workers look good as the economy picks up. Skeptical economists say white-collar joblessness is hyped by national media, based mainly in the Northeast and California, where downsizing in defense, computers, and finance has hit hardest.

IN REALITY, the economic speed-up in recent months has still left many white-collar workers floundering--a problem the statistics obscure. Since August, manufacturers have added 54,000 blue-collar jobs while cutting 35,000 nonproduction ones, primarily white-collar positions. Over that stretch, the unemployment rate has gone down for others but hasn't improved at all for managers and professionals. Meanwhile, such companies as AT&T, The New York Times, and General Motors are making more white-collar cuts. The message for managers and professionals: No one is safe yet.EDITED BY LARRY LIGHT AND JULIE TILSNER Michael J. Mandel

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