Job growth halted entirely in the nation last month. And as Europe’s debt crisis acts as a drag on global growth and Washington debates another jobs bill, the possibility of a second recession is increasing in the United States along with the prospects of corresponding layoffs. Mr. Myricks’s tale of pain the second time around, economists fear, could become all too familiar.
With headlines like the 30,000 layoffs planned at Bank of America and the United States Postal Service asking Congress to cut 120,000 workers, it is perhaps not surprising that workers’ concerns about job security are near the peak they reached during the last recession , according to a recent Gallup survey. At least one anecdotal study found that layoff announcements were greater in August than a year earlier.
The last workers in the door are often the first out the door. That could make the Americans who have already depleted their support networks and unemployment benefits most vulnerable to layoffs.
“Employers are likely to target the employees who are more junior, as they usually do,” said Daniel S. Hamermesh, an economics professor at the University of Texas, Austin. “If you’ve already exhausted your benefits for that benefit year—and Congress has said they want to shorten the duration of benefits—you’re up the creek. That’s one of the most severe worries about all this.”
Right before Labor Day, Mr. Myricks, of La Palma, Calif., near Los Angeles, lost his position as a factory machine operator, a job hard-won after a long spell without work.
That painful loss was an echo of July 2009, when a supermarket eliminated his position as an assistant manager. Mr. Myricks joined the 28 percent of teenage men in the work force—39.7 percent of black teenage men—who were idle and looking for a job then. He spent over a year looking for work, and moved into a cheaper home with his wife, Briana, 20, to help make ends meet. After a few months delivering pizzas part time for Pizza Hut, he finally secured a full-time job in April 2010 at a box factory where his brother is an assistant manager.
“It is a very, very dangerous job,” Mr. Myricks said of his work at Georgia-Pacific. “There are operators in my plant who are missing fingers, or missing legs. They’re still working there, though.” (James Malone, a spokesman for Georgia-Pacific, said that the plant adhered to all federal and state safety regulations.)
Still, the young worker felt lucky to find a job that paid $14.34 an hour (plus benefits), enough to pay the bills and help support his father, who is battling leukemia.
One reason he took the job was that so little else was available in California and across the country. There are still more than four workers for every job opening, according to United States Department of Labor data, and in some areas the competition is even stiffer.
“It used to be that you’d be compared against a few résumés, but now you’re competing with a thousand applicants for that one job,” said Teresa Cannady, 53, of Fountain Inn, S.C.....