These days, as economists bleat hopefully about the bottoming-out of the recession, Bob Niemeyer's story provides a tough lesson. If history is any guide, the 15 million people who are now unemployed will not recover along with the economy. Their loss of earning power is permanent, according to studies that have examined work histories over decades.
How can people reinvent themselves after being laid off? A person might start by asking friends for an assessment of his or her strengths, said organizational psychologist Daniel Russell of Aon Corporation, a consulting firm. “What do people value about you that you never thought about?” he said. Russell also warned against panic, and its paralyzing effects.
At the moment they should be blasting off, many in their 20s are finding their trajectories altered, or their launches stalled, by the dream-killing economy. While national unemployment is at 9.4 percent, people ages 20 to 29 face jobless rates of 12.7 percent nationally and 14 percent in the Philadelphia metropolitan are.
Clutching their coffee cups like talismans - as if a hot cup of coffee might bring them luck, or at least a day's work - the stevedores who unload the region's commerce from cargo ships on the Delaware River amble into their union's no-frills hiring hall in the shadow of the Walt Whitman Bridge.
Marlton and Clementon could not be mistaken for one another; while the former looks prosperous, the latter is worn and weary. Yet together, both show some of the highest increases in joblessness in South Jersey.
Every company that closes has its story. What all the stories have in common are economic currents that wash away lives and dreams and change the course of life in a community.
At 7:25 a.m. on Feb. 20, Dan Perry arrived at work at his Malvern industrial-parts company. By 7:35, Perry was back in the parking lot, holding a box of items from his desk asking, "What just happened to me?"
The closings of law firm Wolf Block and Northeastern Hospital in Port Richmond last month prove that this recession, approaching 18 months in duration, practices equal opportunity as it curtails careers and ruins lives. No sector is spared.