The Road Back To Work: Brian Barfield

Brian Barfield, 54, of Maplewood, Mo., has been unemployed since October 2010.
Whitney Curtis for NPR

Hired: Feb. 19, 2011, after four months unemployed

Position: Part-time/occasional forklift driver in a warehouse

Resumes sent out since job loss: Approximately 80

Age: 54

Education: Some college

When not searching for jobs, I enjoy...RC airplanes, golfing and reading.

Brian Barfield, 54, is only marginally employed. He is working the occasional weekend driving a forklift in a warehouse. He's hoping to catch someone's eye and get hired on full-time at the company. He also continues to search for work elsewhere but hasn't had any luck.

Barfield had spent his career in manufacturing, making decent money — enough to buy a house and support a family. But then, 4 years ago, he lost his job and it all fell apart.

"We lost the house, and I got divorced," Barfield says. "The kids went and lived with their mother."

He says his marriage fell apart, in part because of the financial strain of being out of work for so long.

Barfield had been working for Chrysler and one of its suppliers until the carmaker shut down its operations in the St. Louis area.

"The car industry is gone, and probably the middle class with it," he says with a tone of resignation.

But being unemployed wasn't all bad for Barfield. He started attending meetings at the GO! Network, a group for unemployed people in St. Louis. There he met the woman who would become his second wife.

"I've had my share of down, down, down bad times," Barfield says. "But having met Jen, it's starting to come around and look up, and it'll be fine."

He proposed to Jennifer Heida spontaneously in January 2010. She is also featured in this series.

Now that his wife is back at work, Barfield is even more frustrated at his own job situation.

"She's working, so every dollar she earns is one more under my nose that I didn't earn, you know," he says. "I'm not contributing, and there's a lot of pressure."

Audio Diary

The six people in our series The Road Back To Work are chronicling the ups and downs of their job searches by keeping audio diaries this year. Updates will be posted here regularly.

Audio diary, Aug. 31, 2011: "The second thing would be to take my wife on the honeymoon that we never took."

Audio diary, March 14, 2011: "Well, honey, I can't get it for you."

Audio diary, Feb. 28, 2011: "I would be making $20,000 a year less doing that than my weekend job."

Audio diary, Feb. 9, 2011: "I don't feel good about this. I just don't."

Audio diary, Jan. 21, 2011: "I just got an e-mail back..."

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