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TESS VIGELAND:We’ve already mentioned the national unemployment rate topped nine percent last month. And it sounds pretty awful. But not compared to what’s going on in some states.
Michigan has the highest rate at just over 13 percent. Oregon’s next at 12 percent.
South Carolina’s third at just over 11 percent.
Today throughout the show we’ll hear from several workers in those last two states.
They’re all trying to make it on a mix of unemployment benefits, savings and whatever else they can cobble together.
We start in Oregon.
Michael Dymond: Michael Dymond and I’m 40 years old and I work as a welder. Last nine years I’ve been working for Gunderson, a rail car manufacturing company, and they hit pretty big down streak.
My weekly at Gunderson, somewhere around $600 and when I’m on unemployment, it’s about $425. You know $425 a week is just scraping by. I’ve got three kids at home, I have a fiancee at home and we just barely get by. Bills and loans for the rent or the house payments and the electric and the utilities, they’re just outrageous. Every time I go on unemployment, I fall behind on bills. The financial backing as far as unemployment itself, it’s so lacking, it’s almost impossible to live on it, while you’re trying to look for a job.
I went there for resume classes and I’ve never had a resume before. I went to two classes, I had to repeat one just so I could figure out what they’re talking about and it’s just so far above my head, seeing I’ve never seen a resume, I don’t even know where to begin.
Deidre Murphy: I’m Deidre Murphy. I live in Blythewood, S.C. and I’m 47. I was in marketing. I was making, gosh with benefits and everything and with bonus, about $95,000. I got $326 a week, which is the absolute maximum in South Carolina. If I cobbled all four of those checks together, I could pay my mortgage. I have zero savings left. I did everything I could to pay my mortgage, to protect my credit and now that I’ve been unemployed for so long, I’m not eligible for any of these wonderful mortgage programs. So yeah, I’m a little angry, to be perfectly honest.
You know, I didn’t feel like it was my fault that I got laid off at all. It had nothing to do with my job performance. My ego started taking a hit, when I started getting rejected everywhere I was looking for a job. I would either hear nothing or I’d get an actually rejection. Then you start hearing every week the numbers of who was getting laid off and then, I’m talking to all these people, everybody I know knows somebody who’s been laid off.
Clorene Jones: I’m Clorene Jones, Greensboro, S.C. I worked in a weave mill for 46 years. Last March of 2008, the place that I worked closed down. Hadn’t worked too long. I hadn’t been back to work, but not quite a year, but I did get some unemployment, $193 a week. And then I’ve drawn up Social Security too, that helps.
Well I had a job to go to another plant, but when I went, because I didn’t have a GED or a diploma, they wouldn’t hire me. I finished the 10th grade when I was going to school. Well some of it I find hard, especially the algebra part of it. I wasn’t too good in school, it’s real hard.
Nathaniel Sullivan: My name is Nathaniel Sullivan, I’m 57 years old. I’m trying to get my GED and further my education. My last job was at Delta Mills, it was 2006 I worked for a textile company. And they moved overseas.
When the job ended, i think I was making about $12 an hour. My unemployment started, I think, a week or two after the job ended. It was a third of the amount of money I was making. It made life a little different, you know what I mean? I worked a lot of overtime, I had to budget a lot more than I normally would.
My benefits ended four weeks ago. It’s scary, you know what I mean? I’m a single man, I have to live and that’s like no money right now. It’s a scary feeling really. The economy is even scarier, because you know, I got other friends that are looking for jobs and they’ve been looking for jobs for months and they still don’t have any employment. I’ve worked in manufacturing all my life and that’s one job I don’t want, but the type of job I think that I’d really enjoy would have something to do with computers. It’s kind of hard, because my money’s end and I need some more schooling to achieve that.
Vigeland: Our profiles of unemployed folks in South Carolina and Oregon were produced by Mitchell Hartman in collaboration with the investigative newsroom ProPublica.
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