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

BW

December 8th, 2010
10:57 am

atp

Got it liberals suck…do you have anything else to contribute?

Kamchak

December 8th, 2010
10:57 am

Now run along.

You seem to be laboring under the misapprehension that I somehow work for you.

Nothing Is Free

December 8th, 2010
10:57 am

BW

- – those that actually have the money and run this country, give a damn about the “American people”- -

PLEASE do not tell me that you think that there is a politician in Washington that gives a damn about you or any other American, except for their vote.

They BOTH suck

December 8th, 2010
10:57 am

@Nothing is free

They left for variuos reasons. labor cost, regulations, greed

That would depend on the industry and decision makers of the companies. I know many on the right like to paint it into one little pretty picture, but in reality it is much more complex.

Unions are part, but you are naive to think these companies would have stayed if unions didnt exists. Labor rates are too cheap to pass up for many companies. Some do it just to compete, while others do it just to pad the bottom line

No one answer………….. Not as much a left or right issue as each side loves to play up

willie lynch

December 8th, 2010
10:58 am

If their was an “economic enviornment” to create jobs what would those jobs be?

Nothing Is Free

December 8th, 2010
10:58 am

Kammy

- -You seem to be laboring under the misapprehension that I somehow work for you.- -

Considering how much time you spend here and on your knees for bookman, I’m pretty sure that you don’t work at all.

BW

December 8th, 2010
11:00 am

Nothing Is Free

I’m saying money talks and b.s. walks….corporations nor politicians care about anyone or anything except their next dollar. I don’t have an answer but many many good people will be left behind before this new Gilded Age is over

George W

December 8th, 2010
11:01 am

Heck, if someone is getting 99+ weeks of unemployment why would they want to go back to work?

AmVet

December 8th, 2010
11:01 am

Most multi-nationals left because simply put, they are run by traitors with NO loyalty to the United States of America.

Even though the rubes have given them virtually everything they asked for, including corporate personhood and bailout money to replenish their criminal endeavors!

The faketriot Titans of Malfeasance and Criminal Negligence on Wall Street hide behind that giant American flag, but have demonstrated unequivocally that they can and will screw anybody and everybody for a couple extra trillion pieces of silver.

And then move on to another land when the heat gets turned up even a tad.

That Old Glory should be taken down and given to someone who deserves to fly her…

George W

December 8th, 2010
11:02 am

I am sorry but a corporations responsiblity is not to “care about the people” they are soley responsible for profits.

Larry

December 8th, 2010
11:03 am

And I thought you actually had some constructive suggestions

TXM

December 8th, 2010
11:03 am

Cynthia – I always loved the fact that if you couldn’t reach someone in Monroeville or Frisco City, you could call the beauty or barber shop to find out where they worked or when would be the best time to call. Quite frequently, it would be “Oh, she’s sitting with Mrs. XXX for a few weeks, but I’ll give you the number there.” Many of the local ladies would end a phone call with “God bless you, honey.” Thank you for this post.

Nothing Is Free

December 8th, 2010
11:03 am

They BOTH suck

Actually it is mostly for one reason: Operating costs are lower and profits are higher.

Now take a close look at what caused those operating costs to be so much higher here. Can you really say that Republicans have pushed legislation that limited the profitability of US corporations?

Small Biz

December 8th, 2010
11:04 am

I wouldnt wrap a fish with this column…more comic relief than anything.

Shaggy and Vinnie are spot on. Go to a fair tax, abolish the IRS. If you buy nothing, you dont pay tax. Makes far to much sense as Boortz descibes to EVER pass.

Dem support of unions is insane in a global economy. Global wage comparisons are a reality without import tarrifs which will never be implemented. Why? We are owned by the Chinese.

JC Watts had a great idea…Audit every branch of the federal government. You would cut zero services/entitlements, while spending 50% of the current budget.

Nice job Boehner, thats a start!

David

December 8th, 2010
11:04 am

Cynthia, you are lucky the AJC keeps you employeed. The main reason we are in this situation is Christopher Dodd, Barney Franks, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid,etc. Have you ever criticized them? If so, I would like to read it. Admit you are a socialist…….

Mr. C. Tucker

December 8th, 2010
11:05 am

I got a good job prospect for ya.
Planting tulips It’s hard work but pays well.

Planting tulips on my junk!

George W

December 8th, 2010
11:05 am

I dont think Cynthia is socialist….however she is a racist that only supports the Democrats no matter what the cost.

Nothing Is Free

December 8th, 2010
11:05 am

AmVet

- -Most multi-nationals left because simply put, they are run by traitors with NO loyalty to the United States of America.- -

Said by the abusive husband:
Most women have left me because they are traitors with NO loyalty to me.

George W

December 8th, 2010
11:06 am

Nothing is Free….that was great.

Libby

December 8th, 2010
11:06 am

Gee, nobody was asking this 12 years ago when all the IT jobs went to India. Simple – you either learn new skills or work for the gubmint.

BW

December 8th, 2010
11:08 am

George W

Yes Cynthia hates white people…you sound good playing that victim card like a “liberal”

Kamchak

December 8th, 2010
11:08 am

Go to a fair tax, abolish the IRS. If you buy nothing, you dont pay tax. Makes far to much sense as Boortz descibes to EVER pass.

Then why has it failed to even get out of committee under when both Democrats and Republicans have controlled Congress?

ctucker

December 8th, 2010
11:08 am

George W@11:05, Support for Democrats = racist?

Mike R

December 8th, 2010
11:09 am

Cynthia,

Your articles are like tabloids now. Spinning the jobs problem to being a republican caused issue is just a blatant lie. All you do is blame blame blame the GOP. Wake up girl and realize your party has controlled Congress for 4 years now and contolled the White House for 2. How long is enough Cynthia?? Honestly, how long is enough?? I wish you could be a little more unbiased in your writing. I guess the editor at the AJC is from the same thinking. Look at all the posts, virtually nobody agrees with anything you are saying. Doesn’t that make you question yourself even a little bit?? Sad…….

MC

December 8th, 2010
11:09 am

I kind of like the present division of power now. Guarantees that NOBODY gets anything without hammering out beneficial compromise. Kind of makes eunuchs out of the ideological purists doesn’t it? And who cares anyway? The country is better off without that kind of input. To all you right and left wing lunatics, I bid you goodbye and good riddance.

Tommy Maddox

December 8th, 2010
11:09 am

When jobs leave for good, you move to where jobs exist.

As for the town where the jobs had been, please refer to Detroit.

atp

December 8th, 2010
11:10 am

BW,

my posts were merely a counterpoint that, somehow, conservatives are not compassionate. Liberals like Cynthia always try to paint conservatives as bad guys because she, like other liberals, really have no facts to argue, so they just start ad hominen attacks.

And I really should start using the term progressive. Cynthia is not a liberal, she is a progressive. some of my best friends are liberals and I love them and their passion dearly. The only people in my life that I despise are hard core, left wing progressives from the likes of Pelosi. There is so much hate and anger in their hearts that, if they didnt constantly berate me for being anything other than a Pelosi- Koolaid drinker, I would feel sorry for them.

At some point in time, we Americans are going to realize that progressives like Cynthia and ultra-conservatives like Hannity are trying their best to rip the liberals and conservatives apart, and they are doing a good job at it. I love the liberal passion for the environment, social causes, and peace. I do not agree with their view of the science, methods, and probabilities of success, but I like listening to their viewpoints and passion. And more importantly, I like them because I know they are good, hardworking Americans that love this country and love their fellow man.

wtf?

December 8th, 2010
11:11 am

Check your facts the recession was NOT brought on by Wall Street Execs (code for whitey). It was caused by people buying homes they had no chance of affording. It’s ignorant to put blame elsewhere.

They BOTH suck

December 8th, 2010
11:11 am

Let’s face it folks

Last 30 yrs, the overall economy was based off of explosions of technology,construction, ie…. bubbles that have leveled off (and yes military spending) Yes technology advancements are still taking place, but the hiring has leveled off and we don’t need to even get into construction and housing.

As this was going on many jobs were outsourced and most are never coming back.

We are now left with no bubble to fuel the economy and a continuing dwindling job base of the “manufacturing” industries.

It is going to be a slow, slow recovery and we can argue what the left or right does, but their is no one panacea that is going send us soaring. Not Obama and the Dems nor Repubs.

We can argue until we are ‘blue’ or ‘red’ in the face, but at the same time we better be paying down any debt, and those without jobs better keep digging and working to get one.

Going to be slow.

George W

December 8th, 2010
11:12 am

Ctucker…no not at all. But you overwhelming biased views to favor blacks and degrade whites does!

Nothing Is Free

December 8th, 2010
11:12 am

BW

Money does talk. I’m reading a book Called The lighter side of All The Troubles In The World.

It was written in 1994. The author talks a lot about his visits to eastern block countries where profit did not guide the economy, but the government did. I love to go to Google Earth and see the places I am reading about. Most of the small villages that he mentions are simply gone. The land is all strip mined.

We have established a culture that has adopted the idea that profit is bad. The economy is profit. Without profit, we are the USSR and we all know how that worked out.

They BOTH suck

December 8th, 2010
11:13 am

@wtf?

partially true……… You forget that many banks and investment firms got into bundling loans and selling them which drove an over valued derivative and hedge fund market.

See TARP that both Bush and Obama used to bail out these folks as my proof

Small Biz

December 8th, 2010
11:14 am

Kamchak, you indirectly answered your own question. The FairTax is based off of REASON which isnt part of the equation for most politicians.

ButtHead

December 8th, 2010
11:15 am

BW,
Do you know how to read, I did not absolve anybody, so did you make that up? Typical liberal, create a lie and stick to it. No I will say it in plain English “The Obozo administration decided where the TARP money went”. So tell me how Bush decided where the money went? Oh that’s right he did NOT the dimactrats did… Buy the way just a wee bit more clarification, so read carefully you dimacrats, Bush signed TARP the dimacrats, who were in power wrote TARP, then decided where to put the money AFTER Bush was OUT of office. That should be clear enough for a dimacrat to undrestad.

ButtHead

December 8th, 2010
11:16 am

MC

December 8th, 2010
11:17 am

Small Biz the reason a Flat Tax or Fair Tax will never be passed is because the biggest beneficieries of all the loopholes, breaks, and deductions will never let it happen.

ButtHead

December 8th, 2010
11:17 am

Well said Small Biz

Kamchak

December 8th, 2010
11:18 am

It was caused by people buying homes they had no chance of affording Wall Street’s unregulated derivatives market.

Fixed your typos.

wtf?

December 8th, 2010
11:18 am

CTuck, not all is bad, hip-hop sales are up, pants are saggin’ from coast to caost, there’s a half/half prez in the white house, thousands of babies are born each year with laughably un-hire-able first names pulled out of thin air, athletes and rappers replace absent fathers as the biggest role models, ect, ect, ect….. at least all of your supporters and a good portion of voting democrats are accomplishing their #1 goal in life…..TO STAY BLACK.

Power to the poeple and good luck with that.

Nothing Is Free

December 8th, 2010
11:19 am

They BOTH suck

We actually have much more manufacturing happening on earth than any time in history. The trick is to get it back here.

Our government needs to take definitive steps to do that.

I will agree that both parties are liars. The democrats lie about caring about people and the Republicans lie about wanting to bring jobs back.

But again, until the sentiment that profit is bad is erased, we don’t have a prayer.

They BOTH suck

December 8th, 2010
11:19 am

@Nothing

Spin all you like. You can lower wages in the US and many jobs would still be going overseas. What they are paying even for programmers and engineers is SO much less than the average MARKET wage in the US.

The jobs were leaving regardless. You can make some valid points about unions, regulations, etc but it is only a fraction of the story.

Dont be naive….. The difference in most of the costs for the jobs being outsourced will not be made up by Repubs taking back the WH and Congress. If that were the case, why no slow down of outsourcing between 2000 and 2006?

You are making some valid points out to be the whole argument and YOU know its not the case.

Just as the left needs to take off their blinders, please take yours off as well

wtf?

December 8th, 2010
11:20 am

Both suck –

which came first? The bad decsions to get overextended when buing a home or wall st’s mishandling of their investments?

Debby22

December 8th, 2010
11:21 am

@ Call it like it is- What if someone was making $3600.00 a mo. got laid off, took a job paying $1200.00 a mo. The Mortgage is 1200.00 a mo. the HOA is $300.00 can’t sell the S.O.B. because the real estate market is so bad and no one wants to buy it. You are upside down on your Mtg. Forget about eating, or electricity because you simply don’t have it. Too old and sickly to work 2 jobs. What do u do? I moved here 23 years ago and when I first got here I had 3 jobs. I’m not lazy it’s just the age won’t let me do that anymore? You got milk?

mjj

December 8th, 2010
11:23 am

CT. Another day another way to disparage Republicans. If you would only do some research beofre you spit out you diatribe you would see two things. First, it is now the Dumbocrats who are resisting giving extended unemployment benefits in this deal. Why did you not mention that? Oh, I forgot, it only fits your agenda when Republicans say no. Second, there are 3.5 million jobs available out there in the private sector. Why is no one taking these jobs? I’ll tell you why, because unemployment benefits are more lucrative than the job at this point. Do away with unemployment and you will find these jobs are quickly gone. If market conditions would prevail as they should, supply of labor exceeds the demand for the moment. Therefore, one must lower their price to meet the demand. No different than when a company set a price point too high and no one buys the product. They realize this and lower their price to spur demand. But again Dems don’t like capitalist movements unless of course it benefits them. As a good Democrat who preaches the rich should share the load to those less fortunate, why haven’t you or Opie (Oprah) handed out buckets of your money as a show of good faith that you walk the walk instead of talk the talk? Hypocrit!!!

Kamchak

December 8th, 2010
11:23 am

Kamchak, you indirectly answered your own question. The FairTax is based off of REASON which isnt part of the equation for most politicians.

Like it or not, the FairTax, if it ever does come out of committee, will be changed by the legislative process. So all the numbers/formulae/talking points that you have memorized from the two books that you were conned into buying are worthless.

barking frog

December 8th, 2010
11:23 am

Making SS available to 60 year olds would help
some. Men and single women cannot receive
money assistance from any govt source that I am
aware of, except unemployment. This must be
addressed as our economy changes. Free shoeshine
kits will not be enough. Too many guns floating
around.

Zeke

December 8th, 2010
11:23 am

Spot on MC. When Warren Buffet decries the present system because his secretary pays a higher percentage of her income in taxes than he does you know the folks that benefit the most from the present system and own the system will never allow it change. Then you have the politicians that enjoy using the tax system as a way to leverage power and votes will be happy to let the status quo live into eternity.

lynnie gal

December 8th, 2010
11:23 am

If you are a conservative who is among the displaced workers, and you elect a Republican who represents the interests of the wealthy that convinces you that tax breaks for millionaires is more important than helping you and your family this Christmas, then you are stupider than stupid, and therefore will likely never find work again. Enjoy the world you helped bring upon yourselves, Southern Republican, uneducated,, duped permanently poor!

Debby22

December 8th, 2010
11:24 am

And my last job was outsourced to India. I thought American companies were going to be penalized (taxed higher) for sending jobs overseas? Nobody care about nothing and nobody but themselves. I’m learning it’s a Dog Eat Dog world!

HopeForAtlanta

December 8th, 2010
11:24 am

“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. ”

Why not encourage workers to diversify their skills? Invest in their future. While the workers can’t be blamed for the short term consequences they must adapt and move on. Jobs have been disappearing for centuries–ask a blacksmith.