The pain behind jobless numbers
Published: Saturday, January 10, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 10, 2009 at 12:02 a.m.
Behind the latest unemployment figures showing another 500,000-plus Americans lost their jobs is a sad truth: The deeper the recession becomes, the more it touches people whose livelihoods have never been threatened by dark financial times.
Now the employment line includes workers who've never lost a job before and always believed experience and hard work would protect them.
Many of them are shocked and depressed — or stuck in denial.
Some say they will take any kind of work, no matter what it pays or where it is. Others hope they can somehow squeak by on unemployment insurance. A despairing, middle-aged man toyed with the idea of killing himself in a way that would allow his wife to collect on his life insurance policy.
In interviews across the country, the newly jobless contemplated their futures in these uncertain times.
Julie Banner had parted ways with Avnet Electronics several times over the last two decades — always for a new experience or a better opportunity. But one December morning the tables turned for the first time in her working life.
Her boss called her into his office. She was being let go,
Do you have a minute? asked Banner knew times were hard. Four others had been laid off in September. The 42-year-old saleswoman believed she might be spared.
"I was just hoping that I wasn't going to be one of the people affected," she said.
It takes two paychecks to keep her daughter in preschool and pay the family's mortgage. And her husband works in the same industry that she did.
Josh Tanner studied for years, and worked for years, chasing his dream. He thought he was well on his way to managing a golf course, where he would be outdoors in fine weather, the place he liked best.
On Tuesday, the dream evaporated. He was let go as a groundskeeping supervisor at a Las Vegas golf course.
When he first got the news in December, he did not call his wife. He called his brother-in-law for advice on how to tell a woman just two months from delivering their third child that they were losing their health insurance and their only income.
"I didn't know where to start, or how to go," Tanner said. "He told me to be honest. He said try to be upbeat and positive about trying to find a job."
So the 27-year-old told his wife, KayCee, that there was still hope.
But in these perilous times, how many can afford to play golf?
With no savings, KayCee persuaded him they needed to ask for help. Their church donated two week's worth of groceries and diapers. His family, his friends and his former boss are helping him look for work.
"I'm depressed," Tanner said. "I try and stay positive around my wife and stay upbeat and smile. But it's hard to put a smile on these days."
Martin Feves lost his job just after Thanksgiving. The Portland, Ore., metal purchaser had already shelled out $150 for tickets to AC/DC, the head-banging 1980s Australian band with a legion of middle-aged fans.
Feves proudly counts himself a true follower. So he drove three hours to the show outside Seattle with his 14-year-old son.
Even that didn't help.
"AC/DC was fantastic," he raved. "But I was just sitting there worrying."
For nearly 30 years, he maneuvered through multiple downturns in the high-tech and aerospace industries, including working for airline manufacturer Boeing.
His luck ran out Nov. 30, when he and 19 others were let go from Davis Tool, where he worked as a buyer of airplane materials. He lost a job paying $60,000 a year. His wife, who is on disability and suffers from bipolar disorder, said her monthly medication costs as much as $1,000.
They survived December on his unemployment check, her disability payments and their savings account.
The 49-year-old Feves will consider anything to get another job — work for less, change careers, sell his house or move to another state.
Losing his job for the first time in his life, and through no fault of his own, leaves Feves feeling much the same as he did when his mother died in 1981.But this loss carries embarrassment. So much, he said, that hasn't yet told his friends.
Feves and his wife no longer eat at restaurants. They rent movies that cost no more than $1. And they hope for better days.
"There's not much we can do now," he said. "I'm looking and waiting."
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