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The new jobless have many faces

Published: Tue, December 13, 2011 @ 12:01 a.m.


John Gifford and his girlfriend, Heather Olsen, hold a photo of their 4-month-old son, Tyler, in their Austintown home. Gifford is unemployed and is having a difficult time finding work.

By Karl Henkel



Few areas felt the brunt of the recent recession more than the Mahoning Valley.

Unemployment skyrocketed to 13.8 percent in 2010 and today still remains significantly higher than the national average.

But with the trough of the recession now in the rearview mirror, the economic mess that still remains is new and intriguing, experts say, and there’s no real blueprint for a return to prosperity.

“I think it’s very difficult,” said Bert Cene, executive director at the Mahoning and Columbiana Training Association. “Over the last year or two, we’ve seen things that are not historic.”

But a new report from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services — a profile of unemployment and a post- recession analysis — shows Ohioans what’s needed to get back on track.

The report also showed that there’s no one “face” of the unemployed; the recession showed no mercy, regardless of sex, race and to some extent, education.

There are those such as John Gifford of Austintown, unemployed for just a short time but frustrated with job prospects and how he’ll go about supporting his girlfriend and 4-month-old son.

There are others such as Matt Stockfleth of Youngstown, who considers himself “perpetually” unemployed, despite education from Youngstown State University.

Then there’s Amber Hahn of Struthers, who finished her military service in September and has been unemployed ever since.

“The economy has gotten so bad that people who want to stay in the military are getting denied,” she said. “And it’s hard to find a decent job after getting out.”


Ohio’s 2010 unemployment rate was 10.1 percent.

But what did that 10.1 percent look like?

Men had a 3 percent higher unemployment rate than women.

It’s sort of a “mancession,” said Tod Porter, economics department chairman at Youngstown State University. “Men tend to be a higher percentage of the work force in sectors [such as manufacturing] that are more sensitive to swing through the economy.”

Age was another factor.

Those in the 16-to-34 age group had higher unemployment rates than the state average, led by the 1 in 4 people ages 16 to 19 who were jobless.

Those who had a college degree had the easiest time finding work.

Only 2.9 percent of those with a bachelor’s degrees were unemployed during 2010.

That rate was lower than the national average for those with bachelor’s degree, which was 5.4 percent.

Despite that, Cene said those with degrees aren’t coming out of the woodwork.

“We continue to see people with bachelor’s degrees and master’s degrees who are still looking for work,” he said.

“But what we’re seeing now is a need for career and tech type of occupations, skilled trades. That’s really in demand around here.”

But even skilled trades aren’t guaranteed.

Gifford, a Chaney High School grad, was a union iron worker for 11 years before he decided to look for something with longer-term potential.

Gifford has looked for an assembly-manufacturing job the past four months, but nothing has stuck.

Now, he’s $2,000 behind in rent, has received an eviction notice and feels as if his back is against the wall.

“I had a plan, and it totally went south,” he said. “It’s frustrating.”

Even those with only a high-school diploma fared better than the statewide average. High-school graduates had an unemployment rate of 7.9 percent.

Race also played a factor.

Black Americans had an unemployment rate of 16.9 percent, compared with 11.6 percent for Hispanics and 8.2 percent for Caucasians.


From January 2008 to April 2011, Ohio lost 332,700 jobs, about 6.1 percent of employment, excluding nonfarm payroll.

From 2002 to 2008, only about 50,000 to 80,000 workers statewide were unemployed for more than six months.

But by 2010, that number jumped to 250,000.

The recession has led to worker discouragement, a phenomenon where many decide to give up looking for work and leave the labor force.

The labor force is the proportion of the population age 16 and older that is working or is looking for work.

“That’s kind of been a nationwide phenomenon,” Porter said. “The number of workers that have been unemployed this long is the distinguishing characteristic of this recession. During the previous post-recession downturns, you haven’t seen anything like this.”

Of those discouraged workers, nearly half said they had no job because either they could not find work or they believe there is no work available in their area of expertise.

Stockfleth has looked for work for more than two years and currently lives off student loans. He came to the Valley from the West coast. He’s worked in retail, managed a restaurant and even spent some time as a flight attendant.

“The most frustrating part in my job search is that I have all this experience, but no jobs,” he said.

Now, he’s back at YSU trying to finish his degree.

He is the one in five discouraged workers who said they are unemployed because they are in school or receiving other job training.

Of those who lost jobs between 2007 and 2009, only half had found new work by January 2010.

“It’s really two different ends of the spectrum,” Cene said, describing the job-seeking process of going from “paralysis” — giving up — to “analysis” — deciding to be proactive and move forward.

“Some just seem to be in limbo at this point. They’re not sure which way to move forward, or should they find some entry-level job.”

Cleveland-based economist George Zeller said the state’s economy is treading calmly but positively.

“We are getting slow growth now which is good,” he said. “But we need substantial job growth over a period of time.”


1heidilevy(1 comment)posted 4 years, 6 months ago

Although past recessions have been easier on college grads than high school grads, the needs of a "21st century economy" have magnified the stark difference between education level and joblessness that is why we need degree from High Speed Universities

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2whitesabbath(738 comments)posted 4 years, 6 months ago

Thanks Nafta !!

Now if we just re-nig on paying China any money owed, we could stick it to the American businessmen who sold out americans to build factories overseas.

How about a totalitarianism government ?,.. Dont let nothing in or out, take over South America and North America and be done with it.

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3endthismess(463 comments)posted 4 years, 6 months ago

Whitesabbath...like it! Great idea!

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4Valleyvoter(21 comments)posted 4 years, 6 months ago

This article has incomplete reporting. You need to also address the people milking the 99 weeks of unemployment. I have a friend who has turned down offers because he can make nearly the same amount sitting on his rear end for another 30 weeks. This practice is very widespread, the extended unemployment is a disincentive to return to the workforce, and the longer a person is out of the work habit, the harder it is to reenter. This picture you paint is one-sided.

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5UnionForever(1470 comments)posted 4 years, 6 months ago

Here's a novel idea for Youngstowners - move to Florida or Texas where the jobs are!

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6faith(200 comments)posted 4 years, 6 months ago

Florida or Texas ? $9hr jobs are not for me moving my family. nonunionforever, u need to check ur facts.

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7db(280 comments)posted 4 years, 6 months ago

VOTE OUT OBAMA; his programs, his EPA, and his regulations have done more to kill our jobs than China.

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8VINDYAK(1824 comments)posted 4 years, 6 months ago

Alwayshope is correct...there are jobs out there, but many of us have been lumped into the "overqualified" basket, which is often the same basket as the "too old" basket. The "too old" basket means you are too young to retire but too old to retrain. The only good jobs found out of this basket are "consultant" jobs, often working part-time and with no benefits.

Age discrimination has become rampant during these times, as more and more people in their 50's are finding themselves without a job for the first time in their lives and are financially unprepared to retire early. Others have re-financed or downsized their homes and cashed in their 401k's. Those of us fortunate enough to not have cashed in our 401k's watch in horror as the stock market swings wildly out of control, causing many to feel rich one day and poor the next.

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9Stan(9923 comments)posted 4 years, 6 months ago

Support the status quo . Who needs the jobs ? Work is oppressive . A dribble of welfare will do just fine . . ..


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10legend33(169 comments)posted 4 years, 6 months ago

I can't wait until all those frackin jobs become available!

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11snydro0108(61 comments)posted 4 years, 6 months ago

The workers at Lowe's who are over 50+ are most likely retired. There aren't many job seekers over 50+ nowadays. The people that are 25-40 are the ones looking for the jobs. Anyone 50+ looking for jobs are either retired or on some sort of government payroll, such as SSI or Disability and those jobs are Lowe's are all part time. Same with WalMart greeters. The fact is, in Youngstown, there are no NEW jobs coming available. There are no NEW businesses here, so the jobs that are available are jobs that nobody wants (because they will make the same sitting on their butts, collecting unemployment) or they are jobs that have such a high turnover rate, nobody will keep them. Youngstown, Ohio is, and always will be, one of the highest unemployed cities/regions in the country because there are no NEW jobs/industries coming here that will create jobs.

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12peacelover(838 comments)posted 4 years, 6 months ago

So he should be grateful to work 3 part time crap jobs with no health insurance just to pay the rent?

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13iBuck(231 comments)posted 4 years, 6 months ago

"move to Florida or Texas where the jobs are!"

It depends on what you do (not so much what you can do or even have done these days so much as in what fields hiring managers will even give US citizens a chance to interview). A lot of Florida and Ohio STEM jobs have been off-shored or shifted to cross-border bodyshops, and neither the Reps nor the Dems are even floating trial balloons on measures that would reverse that, but seen intent on making it ever worse.

OTOH, the shale gas and oil are producing lots of jobs in PA and eastern OH, and in ND (10 ND counties have unemployment rates below 2%). OT3H, shale oil and gas have also been found in Argentina and Red China.

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14southsidedave(5189 comments)posted 4 years, 6 months ago

@UnionForever -

Get a clue; there are less jobs in FL & TX....research your facts before you speak.

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