New Job Numbers No Relief To Clevelanders

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Cleveland-area residents Randall Jameson and Toni Chinakas have been unemployed for the better part of two years. We first talked to them in May 2009 in a Weekend Edition Saturday report on unemployment, and their situations have not improved since. Host Scott Simon gets their reaction to the latest unemployment numbers.

SCOTT SIMON, host:

We're joined now by Randall Jameson and Toni Chinakas of Cleveland. We met them last year when we did some stories from Cleveland to try to put human faces on unemployment statistics. Mr. Jameson and Miss Chinakas have both been unemployed for the better part of two years. They join us by phone from their respective homes in Greater Cleveland. Randy, Toni, so good to have you back with us. Thanks very much.

Mr. RANDALL JAMESON: Thank you, Scott. Appreciate it. Happy New Year.

Mr. TONI CHINAKAS: Happy New Year, Scott. Thank you so much for having us.

SIMON: Well, Happy New Year to both of you. So no change in the job status for either of you?

Mr. JAMESON: No. Still looking.

Mr. CHINAKAS: Yes. That would be the same for me as well.

SIMON: Has this meant a change in strategy or attitude for either of you? Randy?

Mr. JAMESON: Yes, it has. I'm no longer just looking for tech-related jobs, even though that's my most current avocation. No. The door's been swung wide open.

SIMON: Toni?

Mr. CHINAKAS: Well, as a matter of fact, a few times I've actually taken off my Master's experience just to try to get my foot in the door. And in September I accepted a temporary assignment. And it's embarrassing to say, but I don't do much other than open mail.

SIMON: So you've learned to conceal your Master's degree sometimes?

Mr. CHINAKAS: Yes.

Mr. JAMESON: Same also, yes. Depending on what the minimum requirements are, I'll either leave it on or take it off my resume.

Mr. CHINAKAS: Yeah. I'm at a point where I'm either overqualified or under-qualified. In the middle - I feel like the sandwich.

SIMON: Randall, when you see talking heads on television or hear them on the radio say things are picking up and going to be better in 2011, does that make you hopeful?

Mr. JAMESON: Literally, yes, but then that literally yes is cut short immediately. 'Cause yes, things are looking up. And I think everyone agrees across the board that the worst is absolutely behind us. However - capital H -some of the good news coming out about the firms looking to hire, new projects coming up - we're going to have a casino in probably three years.

But you see some things like (unintelligible) hire 60 new additional jobs in the next five years. Well, that's wonderful. Personally, I'm four weeks from my 99th week of benefits. I'm going to be a 99er unless something happens real quick here. So while that is good news in the macro, at the individual level it really isn't any different.

SIMON: And Toni, how do you feel when you hear...

Mr. CHINAKAS: You know, I I'm actually feeling a little more optimistic, because I feel like Cleveland is due for things to change around, 'cause quite frankly we've been in a downward spiral since 9/11. We've lost a lot of manufacturing here. I don't have anything in the fire, but for some weird reason I feel a little more optimistic for 2011.

Mr. JAMESON: Toni's right. I mean, there is good stuff happening. It's that in-between part where Toni and I just gotta find something.

Mr. CHINAKAS: Right.

Mr. JAMESON: We can keep going until maybe we can take advantage of those things when those projects are running(ph).

SIMON: Unemployment benefits run out at 100 weeks, don't they?

Mr. JAMESON: Ninety-nine, sir.

SIMON: You worried about health care?

Mr. JAMESON: In that regard, no. As retired military, I am set as far as the medical side. That takes a big chunk of worry out of it.

SIMON: Toni, what are what are your concerns now?

Mr. CHINAKAS: The same concerns I had in 2010. I don't have any benefits. I don't have any health care. I'm actually living on my student loans - I hate to admit it - and actually those came due and I had to call them up and - you know, it's funny because I'm writing my own blog post, 2010: A Year in Review. And I basically wrote that what I've learned from this unemployment - on a positive note, I don't need much to survive.

I don't need, you know, material things. I remember my father, God rest his soul, I remember him saying, you know, if you have your health you have everything. And I am very grateful really for the small things that I think a lot of people take for granted.

SIMON: Randall Jameson, Toni Chinakas, thanks so much.

Mr. CHINAKAS: Thank you, Scott. Always a pleasure.

Mr. JAMESON: Thank you.

SIMON: Take care. Talk to you later.

Mr. CHINAKAS: Bye. Thanks.

Mr. JAMESON: OK, bye.

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