A lot of companies realized, when they were forced economically to cut back on personnel and such, that they were able to make it. They also realized that people were able to take on more responsibilities than they had previously and, right or wrong, they don't want to add additional personnel if they don't have to. A lot of companies are still afraid to spend too much until the global market becomes stable. It's hard job hunting now - employers used to say "knowledge of Software X" preferred (or something similar). Now there is such a large pool of people to choose from they can make their preferences requirements, which cuts out a lot of folks. There is also the whole "Why haven't you found a job yet" mentality too- employers think if you've been laid off this long something is wrong with you, which usually is not the case.
Software is also getting rid of a lot of employees - there is software doing the job that medical transcriptionist used to do, a lot of software is getting rid of the need for secretaries/admin assts (unless they have additional skills such as donating, able to do newsletters/brochures, etc).. Just keep trying, take a p/t job so at least you get past the "why aren't you hired" part, realize you won't make what you used to, do some volunteer work (helps with making connections and you can put it on your resume so that you don't look like you're just sitting at home), and don't forget you're a valuable employee even if some fools in HR don't notice it right away!! Good luck