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Seattle’s new and long-term unemployed


For people who are jobless in Seattle, the unemployment rate doesn’t make much difference. Another figure is on their minds – the number of days they’ve been looking for work.

Until four days ago, Dan was a truck driver for a warehouse company. He was let go, he says, because the company never fully recovered from the worst of the recession.

The company laid off a dozen workers. It’s freezing hiring and spending until the next quarter.

He’s still in shock.

“It’s kind of unsettling, but then I realize I can’t let it get me down,” he says. “I’ve gotta just go out and look around and see what’s out there.”

At age 51, he has a wife and two kids depending on his income.

Margo, 43, has been looking for a job for three months in the pet care industry. She’s discouraged by the number of people she’s competing with for even an entry level job.

“I feel hopeful until you see that job got a thousand responses to it, one job, or 700 people looked at one job,” she says.

She motions with a “thumbs down” that her chance of getting a job, when so many others are out of work, isn’t great.

Velenda, who’s 57, has been under-employed for a little over one year.

“I have really a good track record with a lot of my temp agencies and I’m a hard worker, but because I don’t have a formal education, I have a GED, I’m overlooked for hiring,” she says. “I think there’s a lot of really subtle discrimination against older workers too.”

Anthony was a corporate ethics advisor for a Seattle technology company. He’s been unemployed for two years. At times he’s felt “panicked” but is thankful that his wife has a job, and their son is almost through college.

“It’s odd because I’ve been working professionally for 26 years straight and I had a perfect record,” he says. “It’s hard to find a job that pays the salary I was making. Some people say my resume may be intimidating to others. I really don’t know.”

We’ll get a look at the September Washington jobless statistics in the middle of this month. According to the report for August , unemployment ranges from 13.3 percent in Ferry County to 7.4 percent in King County.

Friday’s national report shows 114,000 jobs were added in September and the unemployment rate dropped to 7.8, from 8.1 percent.

Looking deeper into the report, most of the increase in employed Americans came from those who settled for part-time work: 582,000 more people reported that they were working part-time last month but wanted full-time jobs.

While there are various spins on what the latest jobs report means, most economists say it indicates the job market is “healing, but not healthy.”

President Obama acknowledged there are still “too many of our friends and neighbors” looking for work.” He also says Friday’s slight drop in the unemployment rate is “a reminder that this country has come too far to turn back now.”

Challenger Mitt Romney doesn’t view the latest jobs report as positive. “By any rational measure, it’s crystal clear we’re in the middle of a jobs crisis,” Romney says. “My priority is jobs and from day one of my presidency, I will lead us out of this crisis.”

The unemployed people I talked with outside a North Seattle WorkSource office were split on which presidential candidate they’ll vote for next month.

Two said they’ll vote for President Obama because they believe he has stabilized the economy and the job outlook will get better. The two who have been out of work for longest amount of time want Romney to win the November election.

“Personally, I have less hope than I did four years ago, that’s for sure,” says Anthony. “It’s time for a change.”

AP file photo


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