Where Are They Now: Are the Jobless Finding Jobs?

BY Hari Sreenivasan  January 8, 2010 at 10:53 AM EDT

Paul Solman: Given that today marked the first unemployment number of the new decade, or the last one of the old, we thought we’d contact some of the jobless we’ve interviewed over the past year and see how they’re faring. A small sample, I grant you, but more random what you usually get in journalism, where we’re often picking interviewees to make a point, if only — for an unemployment story — that they’re out of work.

Earlier in the summer, we’d ventured to Chicago for an especially poignant story about undercounting unemployment. We reported recently that one of the stars of that piece, Ebony Allen, has since gotten a job and is doing well.

The Safer Foundation, which was trying to place Allen, sent us the following update on other clients we’d interviewed:

Michael J. Davis Jr.: Actively participating in pre-employment services. Attends Retention Group regularly. Mr. Davis was last referred to a job interview on 12/15/09.

Dimitrious Johnson: Client is currently inactive with Safer Foundation services.

Paul Stephenson: Moved to Wisconsin for a job and is working at a company by the name of Avarto’s as a forklift operator.

Cephas Wright: Client hasn’t been active with Safer Foundation since completing Job Readiness Training Class.

Larry Wohlgemuth (who’d been so pessimistic in the excerpt I quoted in the Ebony Allen update): The last successful contact with the client was on 10/30/09. His sister informed the Retention Specialist that Mr. Wohlgemuth has been ill and in and out of the hospital.

In that same Undercounting Unemployment story, we’d profiled a group of ex-execs in suburban Chicago. Group leader Peter Sturdivant recently sent us this:

I would like to let you know that John Lopata landed this week. You may remember John as the holder of 38 US patents. It’s hard to believe that someone with his talents and track record was out for 23 months. He landed at ITT in Santa Ana. He will relocate, and he is excited about the move to California.

Paul, I think that you would be especially proud of John Frech from our team. He is the Sr. Auditor. At our last meeting, he gave us a breakdown of the four tiers of Unemployment Compensation and the impact of current legislation before the House and Senate.

We asked Peter for a further follow-up this week. He writes:

Barbara Tomczak and John Kessberger have taken temporary positions which are scheduled to last 4 to 6 months. John is back with his former employer.

Finally, a few of the freelancers we interviewed for a story just two months ago:

Stephanie Schroeder is a freelance writer:

Well, for me it’s gone from bad to worse… In November, I had to apply for Temporary Cash Assistance with NYC’s Human Resource Administration. I couldn’t find any more freelance work and the work I did have or did do—I haven’t been paid for some of that. Some big media companies I’ve done work for owe me back pay, which wouldn’t make me rich, but would certainly help me out a whole lot! And just yesterday I found out another outlet I write for is cutting their freelancers to the bone. And so it goes.

FYI: I am tracking my experiences going through the NYC welfare system on a blog titled Werking Gerl that you might be interested in. It’s honest and pretty ironic. I describe just how crummy the co-called social safety net is — not only in New York City, but in this whole country. My thoughts? The economy IS NOT getting better no matter what mainstream media mouthpieces are saying—they are lying! And, even if unemployment #s are down. In reality people are just dropping out of sight. I know people in shelters, people in the street, people stuffed several families to one home/apartment, etc.

This certainly isn’t where I thought I’d be at age 46 when I moved to NYC 20 years ago or even 10 years ago when I was working for almost six figures in corporate PR, but I’m still happy in my life, glad to be out from under “The Man” so to speak. Just wish it wasn’t under these circumstances. And, yes, I AM now looking for full time employment…can’t but do otherwise.

And this from Carlos Giron, an independent PR Consultant:

Talking to friends and family, and literally watching store front after store front go out of business in my community in Woodside, Queens, there is a sense of real fear out there. No sense of real confidence from anyone that the economy will turn around soon.

Things seem like they will get worse before they get better. Permanent jobs in my profession, public relations, are few and far between. Even consulting and part time positions are scarce.

Leaving open the possibility that people’s confidence return —that Big Business and small business will get their MoJo back— as or right now, things are bleak and with little chance of turnaround in the next six months or so. That is what I see and what I sense.

And this update is from sculptor/jewelry maker and food photographer Melina Hammer:

After the original broadcast I was fortunate enough to have a number of people contact, me interested to find out how they could acquire my work. A husband & wife commissioned a number of pieces that they wanted to wear for a New Year’s Eve Gala – it was a special trip up to New York for them – and they were absolutely thrilled with the results. They were given priority treatment everywhere they went that night, wearing these beautiful, unusual pieces. The couple received so much attention, security even stopped them so that they could get a closer look! I have some photographs to accompany this on another computer, and can forward you them later this evening if you’d like.

Now that the commissions are subsiding, I find myself once again scrambling to find business. It would be ideal for the press opportunity to build upon itself (I thank you for that!), and create longer lasting sustainment. Freelancer’s Union would benefit to install a media arm to actively promote their members. A more widespread success would manifest if people like myself had opportunity in the public eye.

As an aside, I went to apply for a regular job yesterday for stability as I find new work for myself, and arriving only 15 minutes into a 2-hour open house, there were easily 25 people already in front of me. And this wasn’t for an upscale, nuanced job – it was for a bakery!

A friend of mine remarked that people are saying things are getting better – she is the only one. Everyone else with whom I have been in contact feels an unease toward the future, a lack of security. I am hopeful – this year is going to be amazing, and filled with great challenges that will define my life.

And just this morning, from the stagehand Michael Collins we met at the Freelancer’s Union in November:

Ironically enough, my freelance work, as a stagehand, has dropped to zero. My fiance and I have a wedding in June to pay for on our own. Stress is building and rumors are swelling that more two more shows on Broadway are closing down. I am a union stagehand, but union or non-union, without shows being made, there is no work for the 5,000 stagehands in New York and New Jersey. What I don’t understand, is New York is the Theatre Capital of the World, the only city that can hold a candle to this city is London. If the economy doesn’t turn around, my fiance and I will try our luck in London, as I attend School for Theatre Production Lighting. I am trying everything under the Sun, but I can not go back on tour, since we have a wedding to plan. If this is relevant to your story, then I am proud to tell my story.

Editor’s note: This post was updated January 8 at 8:54pm. Reference to one job seeker was removed.