In 1938, Lillian Brownstein Chodash had already spent 15 months looking for work. One morning she rode the elevator to the top of an office building in her Jersey City, N.J., neighborhood and started knocking on doors. She worked her way down nine stories, fielding rejection after rejection.

Finally, on the second floor, Ms. Chodash found a father-and-son real-estate and insurance business. The duo had just fired their secretary that day. After a shorthand and typing test, they hired her on the spot.

“I was in heaven,” says the 91-year-old Ms. Chodash, who now lives Boynton Beach, Fla.

How Ms. Chodash and her contemporaries found work during the Great Depression seems a far cry from the job hunters of 2011. Back then, the search was done in public and could be physically demanding. Some of the most poignant images from the 1930s are of throngs lined up to apply for jobs.

Outside of occasional job fairs, today’s unemployed are virtually invisible. That’s because job seekers are already in isolation, surfing the Internet and online job sites for work.

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