Hard Luck Economy Yields Unemployment Problems

By: Kari Huston
By: Kari Huston

Job seekers scrambled to be one of the 290 new employees hired by the Ireland Road Wal-mart and the competition was pretty stiff, because more than 4,000 people applied.

That's over half the total number of unemployed people reported in South Bend-Mishawaka combined. Just over 7,900 people were unemployed in those cities as of November 2006, according to the U.S. Department of Labor website.

“Our average hourly rate for the state of Indiana is right around $10/hour,” says store manager Scott Ruoff. “It's pretty typical when Wal-mart comes in we get a lot of people looking, they know it's a good employer to work for.”

Ten dollars an hour won't pay the bills for single mother Christina Jones. She searched through employment databases today at the JOBWORKS office. Even with years of experience and a college degree, Jones hasn't been able to find a job in public administration since she moved to South Bend. “The job market is terrible here and when you do get a job they don't want to pay,” she exclaims. “If I'm making $8/hour on a job I can't afford medical. I don't have medical insurance because I can't afford it.”

Retail and food service jobs are replacing the high paying manufacturing jobs that are being pulled out of Northern Indiana. “We just talked to Seaman's in Elkhart county, AmerisourceBergen in Mishawaka, there are several companies, the Foundry in Mishawaka just let people go,” admits Tom Kavanagh, Vice President of JOBWORKS, “and all these jobs were paying $12, $15, $20 dollars an hour. We don't have new companies coming into the area that are replacing at those wages.”

Jose Alvarez is willing to take on two jobs and his wife is looking for work, whatever it takes to raise their three daughters. “You just try, try every day,” he says. “Go in the morning and pray to God and try again.”

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