Even previously safe work at family firms isn't immune to the economic downturn. Many small family-owned businesses are turning down requests for jobs from relatives and laying off some family members, experts say. "If you hire a ne'er-do-well nephew, you are basically giving them your income," said William Dunkelberg of the National Federation of Independent Business. "The bottom line is if you hire somebody and they don't earn their salary, that comes out of your pocket."

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