Joe Mahoney for NPR
For 17 years, Paul Taylor was a printing press man. Now he spends his days off from a part-time gig hunting down job leads.
For 17 years, Paul Taylor was a printing press man. Now he spends his days off from a part-time gig hunting down job leads. Joe Mahoney for NPR
About This Series
As the U.S. struggles with a deepening recession on track to become the worst in more than two generations, the impact is being felt across all states, industries and income levels. Meet some of the faces behind America's unemployment numbers. NPR will be checking back with them periodically as they hunt for that increasingly hard-to-find commodity: a job.
Paul Taylor sits in the lobby of a Comfort Inn in midtown Richmond at 8:15 on a bright March morning and reads the classifieds in the newspaper. Doors to the Central Virginia Job Fair won't open until 10 a.m., but Taylor, 53, hopes to get a jump on his competition.
He needs a full-time job.
For 17 years, Taylor — originally from the Bronx — worked as a machine operator in the Richmond area. He was making close to $60,000 a year. When his company downsized just over a year ago, he was let go.
Now he is a part-time security guard, making less than half what he was making at the print shop. He picks up extra cash as a bartender, waiter, car valet. "It's not enough to sustain," he says. "So I have to do odd-and-end jobs in order to make ends meet."
In a gray trench coat, sweater vest, crisp shirt, no tie, Taylor looks like a successful businessman. But his story, that of a full-time printing press man who has morphed into a part-time security guard, is emblematic of the sea change so many Americans are going through.
'I Need To Step It Up'
A father and grandfather, Taylor says he's been married for 33 years. "My wife does work," he says. "She's an in-home childcare provider."
Two of his children are married and out on their own. His daughter is a senior in high school. She works part-time and wants to go to college. "So I need to step it up," Taylor says. "There's a lot to do."
His wife's job is fairly secure, he says. "She has a waiting list, so she's doing well."
Taylor looks to the floor. "She's pretty much, more so, holding down the fort."
Here at the job fair, which is sponsored by Employment Guide, Taylor is hoping to find employment that includes benefits. Many Americans, he says, are working mostly for good health and retirement benefits.
He has sent out scads of resumes to scads of different kinds of businesses. "I'm looking for a job every day," he says. "I'm up early every day. So it's almost like a nonstop thing. It's almost like a full-time job — looking for a job."
At one point he adds, "I expect today to find something."
The Employment Guide, a nationwide company, puts out 55 publications across America. General Sales Manager Scott Forquer has been running job fairs for the company in Richmond for about five years. He has scheduled six for Richmond in 2009; this is the first.
When the minute hand hits 10 a.m., Forquer swings open the conference room door and a steady parade of job seekers flows through. "We're expecting 500-plus," he says. (All in all, more than 1,500 people will stop by during the five-hour affair.)
Unemployed Americans — all ages, all colors, some in business attire, others in jeans and sweat shirts — move from booth to booth. About 16 vendors reserved exhibit space. Verizon is here. So is Bankers Life & Casualty. Representatives from area schools, such as Averett University, try to interest folks into signing up for education and training classes. The Army has a spot; so does the Virginia Army National Guard.
"Companies are a little more reluctant to do hiring right now," Forquer says. "There are so many people out of work that companies have people walking in the door, filling out applications and leaving resumes." The caliber of job seeker is so high, he explains, companies don't need to advertise open positions as much as they have in the past.
Richard Halsey, 44, an out-of-luck restaurant-maintenance worker from Richmond, says, "This isn't my idea of a job fair. There aren't enough vendors geared toward helping an average, everyday Joe like me gain employment."
But Forquer considers the day a success. According to vendors' reports, he says, some 167 fair-goers will eventually be offered jobs.
For Paul Taylor, the fair "went well." He left his resumes with a couple of companies, including a new hotel and a refrigeration company.
"Right now," he says, putting on his trench coat, "I'm heading over to a few ads I see in the newspaper. So, like I said, it's an all-day thing."