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Unemployment workers face layoffs

Brochures aimed at people looking for jobs. As more people find work, fewer workers are needed in state unemployment offices.

You know the people who help people who are laid off? Well, they're getting laid off.

More people finding work means fewer workers are needed in state unemployment offices. Jim Gibbons has worked for the Michigan unemployment office since 2009, and he's waiting to hear whether he might soon join the ranks of the unemployed.

"A couple of Mondays ago we were told about halfway through the day that the agency is looking at close to 400 personnel being cut from the agency," he says.

Gibbons is a Vietnam veteran who spent more than 20 years in the auto industry. He says he's reinvented himself before, and if he needs to, he'll reinvent himself again.

"I was able to acquire new skills and have done a pretty good job of it and now I may be facing a layoff."

Kai Ryssdal: People who help people who got laid off, are getting laid off. More people finding work where there are jobs to be found means fewer workers are needed in state unemployment offices.

Jim Gibbons has worked for the Michigan unemployment office since 2009 and after an announcement a week or so ago is waiting to hear whether he too might join the ranks of the unemployed. Mr. Gibbons, good to have you here.

Jim Gibbons : Thank you for letting me be on.

Ryssdal: What's the mood then at the unemployment office? I mean, are people scared about losing their jobs?

Gibbons: Oh yeah. I mean, a couple of Mondays ago we were told about halfway through the day that the agency is looking at close to 400 personnel being cut from the agency.

Ryssdal: It does kind of make you shake your head at the irony though, right? The unemployment office having to lay people off because there's not enough unemployed people.

Gibbons: Well, the email did explain that they've got a house to get in order financially and they've got to do what they've got to do.

Ryssdal: Before you got to work in the unemployment office, what did you do for a living?

Gibbons: For the past 25 years, leading up until June 2008, I was in the automotive industry. First GM and then Ford.

Ryssdal: Were you by chance laid off yourself?

Gibbons: I was permanently laid off. In fact, I was retired from Visteon Corporation in June 2008.

Ryssdal: So you've reinvented yourself once now, sir. How many times can you do it, do you think?

Gibbons: This is actually reinvention No. 2 because my last two years at Visteon I had to reinvent myself as a machine-shop worker and I was able to do that successfully for two years when finally my number came up.

Ryssdal: Yeah, but it's interesting because that's what all the politicians say you have to do: 'We have to retrain people. We have to give them the skills to get them back to work.' And here you went and found the skills and you got a job and now it's on the line again.

Gibbons: Unfortunately, you're correct. It's on the line again. I was able to acquire new skills and have done a pretty good job of it and now I may be facing a layoff.

Ryssdal: As lousy as thing have been in the state of Michigan unemployment wise, they're better now, right? I imagine your workload was going down at the unemployment office.

Gibbons: The unemployment office workload has gone down. Almost, well gosh, it's probably close to, maybe 25 percent of what it was. It's a good thing, but again a lot of people may be no longer collecting because they're run out of benefit weeks.

Ryssdal: Jim Gibbons, he works at the Michigan state unemployment office. He may or may not lose his job come September because fewer people are out of work in the state of Michigan. Mr. Gibbons, thank you very much.

Gibbons: Thank you very much for having me.

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.

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