The recession affected Assad Ghardhi and his wife, Alice Fisher, in an unexpected and unhappy way. It broke up their five-year marriage.

Ghardhi, 37, who holds bachelor degrees from the University of the District of Columbia in computer science and electrical engineering, has been unable to find a job in his field in nearly three years of searching.

Instead, he is driving a cab, their divorce is pending, and both he and Fisher say his inability to find suitable work was the wedge that split their marriage. "We must have sent out over 150 applications, maybe 200," says Fisher. "He'd be very frustrated when he came home and discouraged. Things went from bad to worse.

"I enjoy my job," says Fisher, who is a chemist at the National Institutes of Health, "and he was having such troubles. If he had been able to get something that was satisfying, maybe we might be able to have stayed together."

Ghardhi agrees. "My wife tried her best. It's something we didn't wish." Fighting back tears, he says, "With this economy, I'm just wasting her time. Every day I couldn't get a job, I lost something."

A permanent resident of the United States for 13 years, Ghardhi says he fears he has not landed some jobs because of his Iranian nationality. He started looking for work in May 1980, when he finished his engineering studies, in the midst of the Iranian crisis. But, he says, "I was outraged by the taking of the hostages too. I know that to return to Iran, many employers there will not hire American-trained people. I don't know where I belong to.

"I'm just out of choices," he says. "If I still have to drive a cab next year, I'll kill myself. I'm like a hungry person sitting at an empty table. Just give me a chance to put my feet inside the door, to prove who I am."