What happens to workers when jobs leave for good?

WASHINGTON — Over the last year, out-of-work Americans, already down on their luck, have had to endure a barrage of unsympathetic, even mean-spirited, criticism from several of their elected representatives. Many Republicans, especially, have portrayed the jobless as either shiftless deadbeats too lazy to look for work or pompous failures too proud to take a job beneath their social standing.

Neither analysis is an accurate reflection of the desolate landscape in which many American workers find themselves. Surely those Republicans know that the unemployment rate has been stuck near ten percent for a year and a half; there are about five applicants for every job opening.

And, as Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said recently on “60 Minutes,” we’re unlikely to see a flush economy for several more years. That’s because the recent recession, brought on by Wall Street excesses, isn’t the only culprit.

For decades now, globalization and technology have been grinding away at American jobs, a process which has gained speed of late. And most of those jobs are never coming back.

Take my southern Alabama hometown. Best known as the  setting for Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird,” it was never a prosperous place, but its textile mills and pulpwood plants used to provide a decent living for working-class residents.

The textile company now known as VF Corporation brought factories to Monroeville in the 1930s, providing paychecks to women (mostly) from the white working-class. By the 1970s, black women were also employed at its sewing machines, making Vanity Fair underwear sold in well-known department stores.

By the 1980s, Parsons & Whittemore Enterprises, one of the world’s largest producers of pulp for paper-making, was operating several mills in Monroe County. Its Alabama River Companies became the local standard for good wages. In 2000, Medline, a huge manufacturer and distributor of health care products and hospital scrubs, opened a small facility that seemed to promise a semblance of security.

But times have changed. The sewing mills have largely moved to low wage countries such as Vietnam and Bangladesh. Medline closed its Monroeville facility, though it has expanded its operations in Mexico and other locales.

For its part, the pulp business has been buffeted by such disparate technology-related trends as the decline of newspapers (a huge consumer of newsprint) and the rise of digital cameras (which circumvent the old print-snapshots-on paper habit). Plants have been shuttered and workers laid off. Some may eventually be re-hired, but many will not find work again that pays as well.

While the state of Alabama has an unemployment rate of 8.9 percent, lower than the national average, Monroe County has an unemployment rate of about 16 percent. Its jobless residents can knock on doors, submit applications and spend countless hours in re-training classes at the local community college, but most are unlikely to find work any time soon. If your job experience is limited to cutting and dying at a textile mill, you’ll find it difficult to remake yourself as a nurse or a computer technician.

The prospects for Monroeville’s jobless workers won’t be transformed by the deal that President Obama has struck with Republican leaders, who insisted on maintaining Bush-era tax cuts for the richest Americans. The owners of textile plants are unlikely to decide that southern Alabama has suddenly become better for business than Brazil. Nor will the hiring plans at Georgia Pacific, which bought Parsons & Whittemore’s Monroe County holdings, change because its executives keep more money in their pockets.

The best news for the unemployed all over the country is that Obama managed to wrest a year-long extension of unemployment benefits out of the deal. For those workers who have nothing else, that’s the difference between eating and going hungry, paying the heating bill and sitting in the cold.

Indeed, Congress — despite its deficit hawks and its compassion-less conservatives — needs to reconsider the old idea that unemployment benefits are a short-term lifeline that is dropped after a recession ends. This was no ordinary recession; it is an earthquake that is destroying the old economy and creating a new one in its wake.

The victims of those tectonic shifts — especially workers too old to learn a new skill or move to a new city – may need long-term, government-funded assistance. It’s not their fault that the ground suddenly shifted beneath their feet.

457 comments Add your comment

Gary

December 8th, 2010
9:49 am

Hey Kamchack, THat is because Freddy and Fannie bundle their loans and sell them to the private sector as investments. People thought it was bullet proof. Then folks stopped paying back the loans. How can you defend freddy and fanny. They would be gone if the feds had not bankrolled them. The private sector pays tarp money back. freddy and fannie do not.

Nothing Is Free

December 8th, 2010
9:52 am

el jefe

Talk your Mom out of going to school today?

markie mark

December 8th, 2010
9:53 am

sorry, something happened…anyway, ABC build their new store between my two. A huge superstore. My income at that time was 150k and I employed 9 people. They opened last October – in the ensuing bankruptcy, I lost 40 years of work (3.5 million) and two homes, and everything else in life but my wife. I moved to Atlanta because I was to old to want to work in the tourist industry. Today, I make 20% or so of what I made last year. I am working for what I made in my late 20’s, back in a technical call center and studying my !@#!@# off. But I am not sitting in florida on unemployment. Do I like it? Hell, no, we are struggling to pay rent on what I make and my wife is still looking for work. But it IS being done, and we ARE surviving, and we will make a comfortable life again. And by the way, I am 51….

tiredofitall

December 8th, 2010
9:59 am

I don’t think most elected republicans think the unemployed are lazy, but from comments made by Conservative, progressives-are-evil posters it is a common theme.

People don’t go into business to hire people – they go to make money doing something and hiring people is just the cost of doing business. The problem is that the old idea of getting a job and staying with it for 30-40 years no longer exists and the work force needs to change and adapt. Now, there is a point where we will have more people than jobs anywhere avalable and at that point, all hell will break loose and there will be less people.

AmVet

December 8th, 2010
10:00 am

Kamcheck, it still amazes me that the fiscal non-conservative have not a freaking clue what happened in September 2008.

With any accuracy and detail, they cannot name the multitude of players, the series of events nor the underlying causes. Thirty years in the making.

Being informed and knowledgeable, is much too much work for them. And as is evidenced every single day here, basic research is far beyond their capabilities.

Besides, they love shucking and grinning for their unindicted “let the free market police itself” criminals.

Mindlessly, to their own families needless burden…

Kamchak

December 8th, 2010
10:00 am

Hey Kamchack, THat is because Freddy and Fannie bundle their loans and sell them to the private sector as investments.

Hey Gary, Fannie and Freddie went from 48% down to 24% of loans sold in the secondary market while the private sector made up the difference

The Thin Guy

December 8th, 2010
10:03 am

The economy will start to improve on January 20, 2013, 2 pm EST, when there will be an American in The White House. There would be plenty of jobs if the illegal aliens were kicked out of this country. Also tax incentives should be provided for companies located in the USA and tariffs placed on anything not made here. The most prosperous country on earth is Red China and they have wage and price controls. We can’t compete because unions and ambulance chasing lawyers have priced us out of the market. Only two years, one month, and twelve days until President Palin restores American to its rightful place in the world.

Nothing Is Free

December 8th, 2010
10:05 am

markie mark

Stick with it. In 1999, I made well into six figures and I had made the mistake of having one huge client. Then I got the phone call that said that my client had been bought by a company that had a whole devision that did what I had done so my services would no longer be needed. Lost a really nice house, Infinity Q-45, in 2000, my income was right at $7,000 and most of that was from mowing yards with a borrowed lawn mower.

I wouldn’t even know how to apply for food stamps or unemployment. After 2000, even all my gear was outdated, but since then, I have fought back to at least owning a home and reinvesting into more modern equipment.

I now have one credit card that I never use and have started an internet business that is starting to grow. Just signed several new contracts that might make next year pretty good for my business.

There will always be people like you and me that would never consider taking a handout and there will always be the ones that go from one handout to another.

B Cosby

December 8th, 2010
10:06 am

CT, I’ll bet all of the mills were owned by white people. There should be some kind of reparations for the people who worked at the mills, were related to someone who worked at a mill, knew someone who worked at a mill, drove past a mill or could spell mill. Curse the rich white man.

willie lynch

December 8th, 2010
10:06 am

What seems to be missed by the many is that a lot of jobs are gone for good. What chance does a 55 year old have going back to school to learn a new skill to then come out and compete with 20 somethings in the job market?

There are many people above the age of 40 who don’t have the greatest computer skills and have to turn to their kids who have grown up with this technology to do some of the most rudimentary computer exercises.

With the world economy comes a global job market. Unfortunately that market doesn’t lend itself to American labor. Of course it’s costly to employ Americans because it cost to live in America. The difference in this time and 80 years ago is that the country had something to build, ships, machines, and weapons for war. We were starting to build the infrastructure we still enjoy to this day and many of America’s major cities were in their infancy as major metropolises.

Americans and America no longer enjoy the distinction of being THE leader in all things beneficial to the world. It is this understanding that was driving the vision of the law makers who wanted to invest in the green revolution. These people have been shouted down by those who feel like there is nothing wrong with the climate or enviornment and there is nothing man can do to fix it (even though he’s done a great deal of the harm).

The advent of the green revolution is America’s new turn of the century infrastucture building projects. This is the new frontier that can put Americans back to work building solar and wind harnessing technologies.
There won’t be a return of the auto industry, or the large factories turning out rubber and paper so we need to turn the corner with a new vision of American industry.

Those Americans who are out of work are by no means lazy and shiftless as some have portrayed them but they are the unfortunate collateral damage of a change in the worlds labor movement which as the rich (private industry) have found out is cheaper elsewhere.

And it’s with this understanding that I pay my taxes and will pay more if required.

Work Dawg

December 8th, 2010
10:08 am

4/5s of this is a great article and lays out well the plight of the working class. Too bad you don’t have any idea how to fix the problem either. Investors will put up money for manufacturing when they find something US manufacturing can compete at, it isn’t a function of political party.

Keep Up the Good Fight!

December 8th, 2010
10:08 am

AmVet & Kam…seems like they are a broken record of past “hits” no matter what the facts actually are. That is why they are doomed to force us all to repeat their continued stupidity.

Why of course all those smart people who worked at Lehman Brothers were snookered in by Freddy and Fannie people….as were all of the other banks and lenders. And of course, those dishonest poor people who managed to outsmart all of those brilliant business people.

On one hand they talk about capitalism meaning the smart businesses shall rise but when Wall Street failed, it is not the fault of those “smart” business people who were not “smart” enough not to be deceived by poor people and the “inept” government who “forced” a government agency (not Wall Street) to buy those loans made and qualified by the “smart” bankers.

Kamchak

December 8th, 2010
10:09 am

There would be plenty of jobs if the illegal aliens were kicked out of this country.

How much–on a per head basis–are you willing to spend to accomplish this task?

markie mark

December 8th, 2010
10:09 am

@ nothing….most have no idea how I feel about some of the comments I see here….they either have no damn clue on what it takes over the course of years (and that includes you CT) or they are so busy chasing utopia for the world that that they dont care what it REALLY takes…being raised poor, working your way out of it (and I mean at least two and sometimes three jobs until I was 40) and then having to start over is a hell of a lot harder than whining about how life is unfair…..bs…..

markie mark

December 8th, 2010
10:09 am

life is just life….deal with it…

Nothing Is Free

December 8th, 2010
10:09 am

AmVet

- -Being informed and knowledgeable, is much too much work for them.- -

So far you are batting 1,000. Every time you come here whining and are slapped down, you resort to thin insults.

It’s like the old joke about jokes in a prison. You should just number your insults and save yourself some typing.

Mala Cori

December 8th, 2010
10:10 am

I wanted people to know that I too was recently laid off (with 2 degrees) and stood in line with thousands of others in line at jobs fairs and know the desparation. It’s important to note that you have to make finding a job a full time job. Don’t rely on the benefits. There are jobs out there, you just have to be creative and challenge yourself to do something new. And if your overqualified, downplay or eliminate your ‘over-qualifications’. When I was unemployed, I applied to work at a book store, but left out my undergrad and grad degrees and just listed my high school diploma on my resume. The bookstore didn’t care that I commissioned a fully automated manufacturing line. They wanted to know if I would be nice to customers, could read, wouldn’t steal anything, and could handle the register. I downplayed my manufacturing experience, and focused on my customer serivice skills. I didn’t lie, but I didn’t present the skills that weren’t required for that particular job either. Know your audience. I ended up with three jobs after being laid off from my engineering job: a cashier at bookstore, a restaurant waitress, and telemarketer (and I worked all three) before I was able to find something full time again in my field. I also loved those experiences at my age because I better appreciated what service people do. Now that I’m back on my feet I always tip restaurant servers at least 30% and am sensitive and respectful to those in service jobs as I know most of them are underemployed and working towards advancement like was. I write chain stores letters of appreciation for the front line workers when I get good service in hopes that they will be recognized or that it will lead them to a promotion. Cynthia: Stop complaining and give people real life solutions to surviving this economy.

Harry Callahan

December 8th, 2010
10:10 am

AmVet

December 8th, 2010
10:00 am

“Being informed and knowledgeable, is much too much work for them”

I’m informed and knowledgeable enough to analyze financial instruments and thus plan and save for my own retirement, without benefit of Social Security. You?

Oh, almost forgot…I don’t think that comma in your sentence above serves any purpose, big guy…much like your ignorant rantings on this blog serve no purpose.

J Moore

December 8th, 2010
10:11 am

Know Unions? — No Jobs!

Avenger

December 8th, 2010
10:11 am

nothing. Apparently you were in your ideologue world when the economy went south. Here is a news flash – the economy went during the last republican administration.

Harry Callahan

December 8th, 2010
10:12 am

Why is it that the supposedly “informed and knowledeable” among us are the ones most dependent on government to hold their little hands every step of the way through life?

Harry Callahan

December 8th, 2010
10:14 am

Why is it that those who find it “too much work to be informed and knowledgeable” are the ones who can find a job on their own, figure out how big a mortgage they can afford, etc, etc?

Bob Segar and the Silver Bullet Band

December 8th, 2010
10:15 am

AmVet and Kamchak…working on mysteries without any clues…

Nothing Is Free

December 8th, 2010
10:17 am

markie mark

I just got back from Hispaniola. Worked both in the DR and Haiti.

Everywhere you go, there are people hustling, doing whatever they can to make a buck. You basically have two cultures: the ones that are dying in the refugee camps and the ones that get up every morning, thinking of a way to earn some money.

No one here faces that. The safety nets are better than working. I have a friend that finally applied for food stamps. Single man gets $490/month in food stamps. I haven’t spent that much on food since 1999. I would eat like a king. Why would he want to get a job?

Keep Up the Good Fight!

December 8th, 2010
10:18 am

Why is it the those “who find it too much work to be informed and knowledgeable” and supposedly have the jobs had to have the government bailout Wall Street and the Banks to save their jobs…..maybe they should become informed and knowledgeable instead of shooting off their mouths shooting blanks.

Mala Cori

December 8th, 2010
10:19 am

A few other tips if your looking for a job: When I was unemployed I really (I mean really) had to downsize my life. My husband and I sold my car, we sold our house and moved into a one-bedroom apartment, we gave up cable, sold our flat screen tv, eliminated cell phones (we just kept the internet and a land line for my job search, we stopped eating out, etc. Even though it was tragic to loss my job, it was also the best year of my life in that we lived on little but enjoyed our time toghether.

Prof

December 8th, 2010
10:19 am

And James maybe you should get a brain.

Harry Callahan

December 8th, 2010
10:20 am

“What happens to workers when jobs leave for good?”

A community organizer puts them on a bus, gives them $50, and takes them dowtown on election night to vote for Democrats.

Atlanta1

December 8th, 2010
10:20 am

Wrter’s Take Away:

* Hateful Republicans
* President Obama saves the day again
* Mean old Corporations took the jobs out of the country in the name of profits.

Different takeaways

* Republicans were prefectly willing to extend unemployment benefits – all they wanted was dollars cut from the budget to pay for it. Something the Democrats were NOT willing to do and the Republicans gave in.

* The Presdient did not save the day. It would have happened anyway. The difference being that we will continue to pile on debt.

* Mean old corporations take the jobs out of the country just to make more money.

Got it.

Thanks.

Jack

December 8th, 2010
10:21 am

There really is no need in arguing with a liberal. Someone listening would not be able to decide which was delusional.

Nothing Is Free

December 8th, 2010
10:21 am

Avenger

When the Democrats took over Congress, unemployment was 4.3%. A full year later it was 5%.

Civics, 101. Who decides the money that is spent. PICK UP A FRIGGIN BOOK.

C from Marietta

December 8th, 2010
10:22 am

Mala Cori, It’s people like YOU. That will turn this thing around. You came up with solutions! My buddy was a CFO and got laid off and worked at a Mellow Mushroom for 2 years, before landing another CFO job. He did’nt complain once. He made the best of it. We need to tap into the America that comes up with solutions.

Harry Callahan

December 8th, 2010
10:23 am

Keep Up @ 10:18…

Most all conservatives were opposed to the banking bailouts, hence the rise of the tea party and their attacks on both Democrats AND incumbent Republicans. Pay attention and try and keep up sweetie, OK?

Sam T.

December 8th, 2010
10:24 am

What many of you here just seem to totally forget is that the Sub Prime Mortgage debacle started in 2003 with a Republican Congress, Senate, and WH beating that drum. Fannie and Freddie went straight to $1.00 in assets to every $65.00 in debt AFTER GW made that speech about every American should own a home and then totally looked the other way while the fox’s destroyed the hen house.

AmVet

December 8th, 2010
10:25 am

Sorry boys, you’re late.

November was feed a troll month.

But if you cannot control yourselves, leg hump away, But I don’t think it is going to cure that painful itch you have.

Keep,

As most non neo-cons know, the US economy was brought to the brink of destruction a couple of years ago. $3,000,000,000,000.00 “lost” (the new euphemism for legalized thievery.)

That some of the delusional conned here act as if this is was just another bump/recession along the road, is OBVIOUS evidence that they don’t have a clue what really happened. Nor even to this day, appreciate the magnitude of this needless debacle caused by “a sustained orgy of greed and reckless behavior”.

I know it is the American way to stick our heads in the sand and pretend otherwise, but this time there is no avoiding the ugly truth.

We are pretty much screwed.

American capitalism has been perverted and hijacked by enthroned corporations, who no longer even adhere to the Three Laws of Capitalism.

Yet, I get yawns whenever I refer to the massive corporate crime wave that has racked this nation for three decades now.

But there is FINALLY a sea change at hand.

Americans now trust CEOs and “big business” at about the same levels they do the US Congress and used car salesmen.

20% of Americans now own 84% of all the wealth int his country. At this rate, it may well be that 10% own 94% of all the wealth.

The middle class is decimated and desperate. And the prospects look as bad and maybe even worse, thanks to this blossoming American plutocracy of white collar criminals and their accomplices in government.

And the most bizarre aspect of it all, is how these childish rubes in the far right-wing act as if this is the normal and proper evolution of American capitalism.

And their kids and grandkids are going to hate them for being such cowards…

Nothing Is Free

December 8th, 2010
10:25 am

Mala Cori

- -A few other tips if your looking for a job:- -

Why would they do all that if the government is going to continue to support them?

I read your whole post. Keep kicking hard girl. And have a great Christmas.

TXM

December 8th, 2010
10:25 am

Cynthia – I know Monroeville; my company was active there for several years during the 1990’s when the VF plant was still active. I found the people kind, open and honest. Unlike some posters, I understand how difficult, if not impossible, it is for families with little means to pick up and move to a strange city to search for employment in new fields. I suspect that many live in small family homes that are owned free and clear. If there is no market for sale or rental property, could they walk away from their own property to start again in another city with little to no resources? I’m sorry I have no answers, but I do understand what a bitter circle this is. Working 40 hrs. a week in a manufacturing industry used to be an honorable career – one that enabled generations to raise families and own homes. Outsourcing of jobs held by generations of American families has changed the American dream.

BW

December 8th, 2010
10:27 am

Harry

Where is the Tea Party on this news? None of this is paid for….another $1 trillion stimulus plan….I don’t see any idiots in tri-corner hats with Don’t Tread On Me flags out…Republicans are laughing at the neophytes just elected. Who seizes power just to relinquish it? What a crock.

Avenger

December 8th, 2010
10:28 am

nothing “The problem started when the standards for loans were lowered by the fed as an attempt to allow poor people to buy homes” Your logic makes about as much sense as your telling a cop that you bought drugs because the drug dealer was selling them. The most powerful economy in the world was brought to it’s knees by the crooks on wall street. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac didn’t create “credit default swaps”. The crooks on wall street came up with these fraudlent schemes.

Nothing Is Free

December 8th, 2010
10:29 am

Keep Up the Good Fight!

- -and supposedly have the jobs had to have the government bailout Wall Street and the Banks to save their jobs….- -

LOL!! How many people in Atlanta do you believe had their jobs saved in the Wallstreet bailout? Maybe 100? Maybe 150?

wtf?

December 8th, 2010
10:29 am

Victims? We’re all victims in one way or another. Putting blame on others for one’s own decisions about education, line of work, obtaining job skills, personal spending, lifestyle, family size is wrong.

We all have choices, not everyone can be as successful as everyone else.

If you go back to the original root of the problem and what started this reccesion, it was people getting into home loans they couldn’t afford. That single bad decsion made by thousands or millions is what started this financial meltdown. You might say, those people were the VICTIM of this or that, but it all comes down to the choices we make in life. When I applied or a home load 7 years ago, the banks said I could borrow upto $350K, I instead settled on a $150K home, I made a good decsion, others did not.

How do we fix this? Through education, good parenting, and less political bickering that only polarizes the masses.

Kamchak

December 8th, 2010
10:29 am

And of course, those dishonest poor people who managed to outsmart all of those brilliant business people.

What a coincidence, Keep. Why it was just the other day, I was in line at the grocery store behind this woman with six kids (all of the snot-nosed brats were wearing top-of-the-line Nikes), and while she was paying for food with WIC vouchers, (all the while two–no four–cases of beer were in the grocery cart) she related the story about how she tricked Moody’s into selling it’s ratings to the very people whose products they were rating. Not only that, she convinced Goldman Sachs to secretly bet on the housing crash.

Sam T.

December 8th, 2010
10:30 am

And by the way. Where are all those deficit hawk tea partiers now? They have become MIA in this tax/unemployment debate. You’d think those guys would be raising mortal hell about any unfunded spending or deficit increase now wouldn’t you? Could it be that reality has already rendered them silent? And what are the Republicans going to say when 2 years from now when the unemployment rate is still through the roof in spite of these tax rate extensions that are supposed to create all those jobs.

mmm, mmm, mmm, Barack the LIAR Obama - BEND OVER, Here comes the CHANGE!

December 8th, 2010
10:30 am

Oil to Highest Price Since 2008

Remeber George and his oil buddies? What’s up with THIS. Come on Cynthia, let’s dig into this one.

BW

December 8th, 2010
10:30 am

TXM

If they were just willing to move to where the jobs are they’d be ok. So they better dust off their Mandarin because that’s where the jobs are.

Nothing Is Free

Are you willing to carry weapons and use bodyguards every time for go out in public? If or when the government cuts off all safety net measures they are those who will simply take. No one is just going to starve or accept third world wages just to say they have a job.

Harry Callahan

December 8th, 2010
10:31 am

AmVet just excercise his superior intellect by using the term “leghump” for the 1,000th time on this blog, and then followed it up with 500 words of useless, mindless drivel.

And yet, curiously, despite his obvious need to pontificate at length about all matter political, he can’t quite bring himself to tell us whether or not he opposes socialism. It seems that impotence comes in many different forms.

Nothing Is Free

December 8th, 2010
10:31 am

Avenger

Look around. Do you think that the hundreds of thousands of jobs that have moved to other countries was because of Wall Street?

Maybe too much for you to think about.

Keep Up the Good Fight!

December 8th, 2010
10:32 am

Am Vet.. I agree that the greed of the large corporations and their leaders is slowly destroying this country and leading to the distortion of the government process and the Let them do anything they want mentality of the right is a major problem. Big business often IS the problem. “No regulation is better” thinking is the problem.

Harry, sweetie no nothing…do try to keep up. Yes conservatives objected to the bailout (well except for the republicans who voted for TARP and the President who signed it)…. but do tell me, why oh why were these “smart” people coming to the government with their hats in their hand….Why I say, do tell me, why the “smart” people even requested bailouts if they be so smart.

BW

December 8th, 2010
10:34 am

wtf?

Congrats….you’re right…personal responsibility wins everytime. But there’s a huge mess out there that needs to be cleaned up. So is it personal bankruptcy or waiting for the debtors to simply write off your obligations? Those are the only two options to former middle class people who are laid off due to decreased demand. Some people can get three jobs to replace their old job and still not make enough money to pay off what they owe. Yes shame on those people for screwing up but what is the way forward?

C from Marietta

December 8th, 2010
10:34 am

CT and her liberal gang will NEVER be happy, until they can choose how you spend your money.