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Playlist: Finding Our Bootstraps

Compiled By: Michigan Radio Economy Special

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"The Etiquette of Unemployment" by Adriene Hill

From WBEZ | Part of the Chicago Public Radio Economy Coverage series | 01:59

Adriene Hill looks at the etiquette of being unemployed.

Default-piece-image-2 New unemployment numbers are out—and 9.4 percent of wanna-be workers can’t find a job. Being without work can raise a host of financial and emotional problems. It’s also raising big and small questions of etiquette.

It’s not something that most etiquette books cover in great detail: how to handle being out of work in the middle of a recession. And Mary Gustafson has a lot of questions. She was laid off from her job as an editor of a trade magazine in January. We meet up at a café in Chicago.

She’s found her self wondering how to be in touch, or out of touch, with former colleagues.

GUSTAFSON: My friend and I decided there was a cooling off period before you can talk to your old co-workers without it being too awkward.

She’s pondered how to handle expensive dinner invitations, and…

GUSTAFSON: What to do when you’re defriended or de-linked-in?

And, solving this social quandary…

GUSTAFSON: The hardest one is figuring out how much you can whine to someone without being too whiny. You can feel sorry for yourself for a while and you can let someone buy you drinks for a while, but how long can you complain?

DICKINSON: I think you need to factor in a few days of Doritos on the couch, crying, you know angry and then you really do need to set that aside.
Amy Dickinson is an advice columnist at the Chicago Tribune.

DICKINSON: It’s like when you know you’re dating. You don’t want to go on a date with a guy who’s like complaining about his ex. So you have to leave it. And I think you have to leave it as quickly as you can.

She says the people who do best are the ones who just get on with life-who don’t hole up and withdraw.

Job seeker Gustafson says its can be tough to feel confident meeting someone new.

GUSTAFSON: Chit chatting at wedding showers or any other public event it’s kind of awkward when they ask what you do and you have to say you’re unemployed.

Dickinson, the advice expert, suggests it’s time we all rethink the ways we interact.
DICKINSON: Small talk isn’t so small anymore.

Her recommendations for new topics: maybe celebrity gossip or simple, perhaps more meaningful questions like “how are you?”.

(Originally aired on Marketplace Morning Report)

My Plate Full, Yours Empty

From Curie Youth Radio | 02:05

What one family makes for dinner when the cabinets are empty.

Youth_radio_small Even when Abdel Mutan's family was going hungry, he didn't know it.  Here he talks to his mother, remembering an evening when Abdel's mother put her family first and herself second.

Curie Youth Radio is a writing and radio production class at Curie High School on Chicago's Southwest side.

Here, students create their own stories: fresh takes on everything from snowball fights to gang warfare. They see their stories as a way for teenagers in one Chicago high school to reach out to the rest of the world.

Struggling Company Goes Out of Way to Help Laid Off Workers

From NPR Economic Training Project | 03:24

Charlotte-area small business Tyler 2 Construction is putting laid-off workers on "attached unemployment" and still paying their health insurance because the company founder says "it's not about the money."


We often hear small business owners talk about how their employees are like family.  And that can make layoffs tricky for people like Katie Tyler.  She's the founder and president of Tyler 2 Construction in Charlotte and she often spends more time with her employees than she does with her own husband.  The recession has forced Tyler to shrink her staff by a third.  But she's doing what she can to ease the pain.  WFAE's Julie Rose reports.

High School Senior Weighs Options

From Youth Radio | 02:42

Like a lot of high school seniors, Mayra Jimenez is weighing her options after graduation, and hoping to be college bound but not broke.

Default-piece-image-0 The economy is making paying for college an even bigger financial challenge. Youth Radio contributor Mayra Jimenez has the motivation to go to college — she just hopes she can afford it.

Living on the Beach in Santa Barbara

From World Vision Report | 10:33

With the economy in crisis, American families once considered middle income are now living on the edge. Some have lost their homes. And some of those without homes now find themselves waking up each morning in an unlikely place. Tena Rubio spent the day with one such family in Santa Barbara, California.

Wv_podcast_icon_sm_small If you air this piece, please include a back announce saying "This piece originally aired on the World Vision Report." or "This piece came to us from the World Vision Report."


From Jesse Dukes | 06:13

Adam Johns never wanted to be a worm digger, but he does what's necessary to make ends meet.

Jesse Dukes

Default-piece-image-0 Adam Johns is a self-styled entrepreneur. These days, that means digging for bloodworms at thirty cents a worm, or anything else to make a quick buck. Adam is frustrated by his circumstances and worried that he might not be able to dig worms anymore. Even so, he still manages to laugh at life.

Life After Layoff

From Charles Manley | 01:43

My father discusses the changes he's making after the collapse of the North American auto industry.

Default-piece-image-2 An audio postcard from my father who spent over 34 years in the auto industry before being downsized. He started at General Motors as a line worker when he was 19 years old.

"Hard Working: When Unemployment Benefits Run Out" by Adriene Hill

From WBEZ | Part of the Chicago Public Radio Economy Coverage series | 04:18

Adriene Hill looks at what happens when unemployment benefits run out for some people.

Cityroom_20090827_ahill_2222238_hard_large_small The unemployment rate in the Chicago area in July was 10.7 percent, higher than the national average. For many people, the search for work started months and months ago. As of last month, a third of job seekers in the country have been out of work for more than half a year. Chicagoan Carole Cantrell has been looking for work twice that long. Back in February, we brought you her story about piecing life together as part of our series Hard Working. Today, we check in.

If you heard Carole’s story back in the winter you might remember that she’s a 52-year-old woman looking for a graphic design job. She lives with her super-fluffy cat Romeo in a sparsely furnished apartment on Chicago’s north side. So far, she’s had no luck landing a permanent job; she does have a little freelance work.  On the day I visit, she's designing a party invitation for a non-profit in Chicago.
CAROLE: (on phone)...the digital, you can do laser print...

She’s not getting paid for the invitation, but she’s hoping it might help her get paid work later. Maybe someone with money to spend will see it and like it.
Her hunt for work is now more than a year old. She’s spent day after day, hour after hour since last June,  reading job descriptions and sending cover letters for full time jobs and freelance work.

Today-more frustration.

CAROLE: It’s early in the morning. I checked Craig’s List and the Columbia website already, I didn’t find anything. Some days there’s nothing. It has slowed down.

And money isn’t good. She has a college loan that may go into default at the end of the month. She gets regular calls from school bill collectors.

CAROLE: What I think is kind of funny is that, well, I don’t have anything. He said, 'They’ll garnish your wages,' and I said, 'Well I don’t have any wages. I don’t work for a company, I work intermittently and so I don’t know.' Maybe I should be scared. It’ll ruin my credit. I don’t want that, but it’s not the end of the world. I’ll pay cash. What can I do? If I don’t have it, there is nothing I can do.

The social safety net, set up to help people get through rough stretches, is showing its limits. A spokesman with the Illinois Department of Employment Security says thousands of people could exhaust their unemployment benefits in the next two or three weeks. And, by the end of the year, there could be 40,000 people no longer getting unemployment checks. The rough stretch just keeps stretching. Carole’s unemployment insurance ran out in July.
CAROLE: That was another day that made me want to cry.

She was getting by with food stamps, but she made too much money doing a temporary job to keep them. Before food stamps ran out, she stocked her pantry with foods that don’t spoil—like beans and pasta—even peanut butter.

In many ways, her situation seems more precarious than it did in February. The backstop is gone. For the most part, she’s on her own in this recession.
Still, surprisingly, maybe even ironically, she seems more positive than she has in the past.

CAROLE: I think in general I have more confidence in myself and my abilities, and maybe just getting accustomed to the situation.

She says she thinks sometimes about where Romeo the cat, who sprawls out on her chest while she works on cover letters, will live if she loses her apartment. But she’s getting by. When the unemployment payments stopped she says she stopped thinking of herself as unemployed.

CAROLE: I see myself as a freelancer now. It’s like OK, here I am. It was always an option. I knew that going into this field and um I’ve always known that I’m very good at learning on the fly and that’s what I’ve been doing. And I’ve been surviving that way. I’d like to take it beyond survival. That would be good.

But she sees what she has now as a smidgen of success. She and her cat have a home, a place to live.  They’ve made it this far. It’s still incredibly stressful, sometimes she says it’s just too hard to work on her art. She curls up in front of the TV instead.

And the day to day strain of being without regular work remains. Carole still doesn’t know where rent money or grocery money will come from next.

"Hard Times Harder In the Motor City" by S. Hulett

From Michigan Radio Economy Special | 04:11

A look the epicenter of the recession, and how this downturn compares with previous ones.


This piece takes a look at the depth of the economic downturn in Detroit, with scenes including desperation and chaos at an event where housing & utility assistance was being made available; the bleak outlook for out-of-work Detroiters; and the strain the recession - long and deep in the Motor City - has put on the social safety net. The piece also includes some perspective from an economist, who compares what Michigan and the nation are going through now with previous downturns. Produced for the "Finding Our Bootstraps" project.