More from 99ers: An Update on Gregg Rosen, and Why Some Companies Say They Still Can’t Find Employees

BY Business Desk  August 13, 2010 at 5:23 PM EDT

Paul Solman: The last few days, we’ve been running outtakes from last Friday’s long-term unemployment story, including two featuring pony-tailed 40-year-old former marketing manager and cell phone store owner Gregg Rosen.

Today, a response from Mr. Rosen, after I wrote to say that a prospective employer, “Mr. L,” had contacted us and asked Mr. Rosen to call.

“Two updates: I am still trying to get in contact with Mr. L…, he is currently on vacation. I just received my first call from a headhunter in over two years who thought I would be a perfect fit for a client she represents, UNTIL I told her how long I have been out of work. She then said they would not want to speak with someone who has been without work for so long.


Meanwhile, we’re still hearing from viewers about our 99ers coverage. You can see a sample here and here of some of the comments we’ve received. Some commenters, like Mikezline, thought our story underplayed the extent of the desperation 99ers are faced with:

Paul, you could have found a better example of a 99’er than Mr. Rosen. Although he has had a lot of bad luck and is a 99er, looking at his beautiful home it’s hard to feel sorry for him. Obviously he still has a lot of assets that he could sell to live on. Contrastingly, there are plenty of 99ers who have lost EVERYTHING and some of them are living in cardboard boxes. You should have sought out and interviewed one of those who is truly destitute.

To Mikezline’s point, Mike Thornton, who writes the Rochester Unemployment Examiner and edits the Layoff List, gave us permission to post this poignant email from a 99er in Washington:

Dear Mike,

I feel like as long as I have Internet, I need to send you my massive thanks occasionally.

I am terribly disappointed in the PBS story, for reasons you noted. The story doesn’t show someone like me, who, lost my job, then my home, then my vehicle.

I was forced to move into a 30 year old single wide trailer, for which I am now unpaid for the space for June, July, and August. In a few weeks, I will be behind on the 350$ payment to own the trailer, and they won’t wait longer then a week or two when I am late to kick me out. The landlord, too, can’t wait much longer. I haven’t packed, because I have nothing, and no one to turn to. My community laughs when I call for help, as they have long become impossibly overburdened as well as losing massive funding right at the time thousands more needed them.

I have cancer, basal cell carcinoma, beside my lip, and have had for coming on two years. It is not yet life threatening, just disfiguring, so I don’t qualify for assistance. The pain shoots like electricity along my cheek, intermittently, and its the most shocking, painful thing you could EVER imagine. Even the slightest wind triggers it, sometimes. It just started doing this about 2 weeks ago, and of course, I can’t afford to see my doctor.

My 80 year old Mom had lived with me for the last almost 6 years, and now, she has gone to seek public housing in Montana, where her sister lives, as the stress of my near-suicidal depression for the last year has been too difficult for her, and public housing has become a better alternative, which speaks to how horrifying this situation is.I have gained 80lbs, and I do not leave my room, much, except to take care of my dog and two cats.

I can’t afford to see my doctor, who I trust, for help. I am taking some anti-depressants he prescribed me, but when those run out, I won’t have the money to go again.

I am a Network Ops Tech, and my last job paid $25 per hour. I have worked whenever I wanted to since I was 18.

No retroactive means even if something passes today, I won’t be able to catch up, and I long ago drained every resource, and have borrowed from friends and family, with shame and sorrow, as they, too, include 99ers.I could not even keep up my life insurance payment, which is the only reason I stayed alive, because I could not leave my Mother without leaving her enough money to make her life as it should be after her long and contributing life.

I am due to pay a $5,000 balloon payment in November to finish paying off the trailer, as when I agreed to that, I was certain to be back to work, quickly, right? I’d never been out of work longer then a few weeks before.

I don’t have the house anymore, like the two pictured in the story.What am I going to do? How am I to survive? Why am I to survive? I’m 43, and my new start after leaving a horrible relationship has turned into hell on earth. I’m smart, and I had a lot more to give the world. I hate the Republicans, passionately. I am ashamed to be an American. My fellow citizens hurl derision and accusations at us, as if when we are used to living decently, and safely, we are oh-so-excited to be thrust into eviction and poverty. In Washington State, my unemployment puts me FAR below the poverty line, with almost 75% of the money going towards the trailer and space. It is the lowest I could possibly live here. Housing here has waiting lists YEARS long.

Now that my Mom’s gone, I can say that I will NOT live on the streets. Death may not be proud, but it would/will be better then what I go through now. The dream is dead, and my country, if it remembers me, calls me lazy and worthless.

Your site has been a connection with what is happening, and I know you have put a great deal of work into it, and I want you to know how much that has been appreciated by me.

Good Luck,

In addition to the folks we profiled on the broadcast, we also posted other stories like J.A.‘s. Many are truly heartbreaking. You can view some of them here.

While there were those that felt we UNDERplayed the plight of the 99ers, others thought we OVERplayed the extent of the problem. For instance, a viewer in Illinois e-mailed us:

I see over and over where people are more help from the goverment with more free unemployment. In Illinois they are yelling there are no JOBs. Why is this when in Chicago alone there is over 4000 jobs posted on HOT JOBS alone. I feel unemployment has become a way of life for so manny that its harming the main streem who do have jobs. I also feel that 99 weeks of unemployment is more than enough for people to learn new skills, get re-trained or do what ever they need to do to get a JOB. The goverment can not afford to keep paying people who do nothing to help them-selves. Im sure most of these 99ers are also the same people who wile they were employed sat and complained about the people on walefair being a drain on the system, but its ok for them to be a drain as long as its in the form of unemployment? Where will it stop!!! What happens after that 20 weeks is gone and they are still unemployed?

We checked the Hot Jobs listings in Chicago and found thousands of job openings too. Many looked legitimate but we saw a fair share of postings that seemed rather…unconventional.

We discovered a training and internship firm which asked job seekers to hire THEM rather than the other way around.

One company sought people to fill out surveys:

“Would you like to join the finest minds in research? Share your opinion? Get paid between $5 and $75 for each survey you complete? You’ve come to the right place!”

Another offered similar work:

“It’s pretty simple. There is no registration cost, gimmicks or gambles. Just enter your PayPal-enabled email address and we’ll send you directly to a survey. Qualify for and complete the entire survey, and we will send a $1.00-$75.00 payment to your PayPal address.”

The Wall Street Journal ran a story on Monday about companies who say they are hiring but aren’t getting a big response. The piece points to a few possible reasons for this: extended unemployment benefits are a disincentive to finding a job, some people cannot move for work, and many job seekers don’t have the skills required for specialized positions. Dan Gross of Slate wrote about this too.

We contacted a couple of the companies profiled in the WSJ article.

Linda Fillingham at parts manufacturer Mechanical Devices confirmed the account. “I have much more work we could do. I have four other companies we’ve been trying to branch out with,” Fillingham told us.

The company has been hiring since January but has been unable to fill the 40 $13-$18/hour manufacturing positions they need. Why? Fillingham thinks unemployment insurance is partly to blame. “If you’re going to pay them to sit at home, why would they go work?” She also said the people who do apply lack the necessary skills or cannot move for the job.

Gary Price, VP of Human Resources at Pilot Flying J, felt the article misrepresented the situation his company is in. He told us the firm is indeed getting the same number of applications as they received when unemployment was 5 percent but, counter to the contention of the WSJ report, his company is not struggling to hire. Price said, “We get enough applicant flow for the number of openings we have to stay staffed.”