While economists may say the recession is over, those still looking for work may disagree. In January, national unemployment stood at just under 10 percent… a slight dip from the previous month…. while in Iowa the latest unemployment figures from December put the percentage of unemployed in this state at 6 point 6 percent. But the numbers can be misleading. In one Iowa county, as many as one out of every nine people over the age of 16, or 11 point 1 percent of the residents are currently looking for a job. Losing one’s job creates not only a financial strain on any family but also an emotional one.
Shawn and Jen Green have an active life.
4 children under the age of 7 can add an extra level of excitement to any house. Unfortunately an unstable job situation hasn’t reduced the stress.
For the last 2 years, Shawn had a job with an Iowa company that built fireplace inserts for new home construction… an industry hit hard by recession.
Shawn Green: “Within in a year it went from 500 employees to start doing the layoffs, boom, boom, cuts started coming across the board. And we knew by mid 2009 the shakeups were not going to be just factory floor workers. We were losing management.”
Until he was let go, Shawn thought his job was secure.
Shawn Green: “I get called into HR office and was told we’ve got to let you go. I was like, whoa, ok. They totally bamboozled me with it.”
At first, Jen didn’t believe Shawn and his news. But reality soon set in.
Jen Green: “I flipped out, had a big cry, panicked a little, I don’t know what we’re going to do, we have nothing in savings, we’ve got 6 people on one income, a 4 week old baby.”
After the layoff, Shawn and Jen, who had moved to Iowa just two years ago to be closer to family, thought another job would come along quickly. During their search to come to Iowa, there were multiple job offers.
Jen: “You’ve got 5 years of experience, and then started looking, there was nothing. Within 2 weeks there was nothing out there, we’ve gotten a couple of interviews, but now what? A couple of weeks before Christmas started looking for other options.”
Jen Green had been posting to various online blogs for years. But her experiences with Shawn’s layoff in November, right before Thanksgiving, prompted a new Web project called Unemployed in Iowa.
Jen: “I started the blog to process things. You can talk to family and friends, people don’t really get it. Unless people are going through it, they don’t really get it. The blog gave me a place to process through things, and empty my head, get past that panic mode that I was living through the first few weeks. And its cheaper than therapy.”
The site also includes Shawn’s resume and information about items the family is willing to sell to make ends meet.
Jen: “It we need a little extra money, allow us to have some extra income, try to purge and live a simpler life. “
Following Shawn’s layoff, he was given a severance package, but that ran out after Christmas. It was then that the Green’s applied for public assistance.
Jen: “The economy caught up to us. So at that point we said, you know what, we have 4 kids and they need food. And this would take an enormous level of stress off us every month. And with 4 kids under the age of 7, we have enough stress. 12219
The Green’s are trying to make the most of their situation.
Jen: “And now that he lost his job, we have the opportunity to do all the things that he couldn’t do when he was working. He can go back to school and not have to work full time. And not be gone 70 hours a week between work and school and try and juggle it all, a new baby.“
Currently Shawn is doing some free-lance IT work around town. He begins computer programming classes at the end of the month in Ottumwa at Indian Hills Community College. The college has seen 20% increase in enrollment over the past year an increase believed to be due in large part to the growing tolls of the unemployed in Iowa.
Paul Yeager: “Then there’s the networking side of things. Here at this coffee shop in Des Moines, a group gathers to tell stories with one another as meet, network and find out they’re not the only ones going through the job search.”
“To know you’re not alone. Sometimes you feel alone when you’re unemployed, especially the longer it goes on.“
Suzanne Hull started blogging about her employment status in a blog called Unemployed in Des Moines. Soon she branched out to networking events like this one.
Suzanne Hull: “The support of course, first and foremost, knowing that is what started me to blogging, is having a support network. It’s very easy to sit at home and apply to jobs online. I met a gentleman a couple of weeks ago who’s been sitting in his home for one year, applying for jobs and this is his first networking event, ever in his entire life. If I can provide an outlet for people to network comfortably, and it’s not intimidating, that’s great.”
Like Green, Hull has found the time off from work a chance to look for and find a career in an area she has always dreamed of doing. Hull now has gone into business for herself and found the rewards go beyond a paycheck.
Hull: “As soon as I started doing what made me happy, quality of life improved tremendously, and I saw that I was helping others as well, and putting myself in position to receive mentorship has helped me determine what my vision is going forward and now that I know what my vision is, I’m taking every step I can now to get there.”