Unemployed Women Wait For Phone To Ring

With the economy heading down, unemployment is heading up. Three unemployed women from Nashville, Tenn., talk with Renee Montagne about the challenges finding a new job. The group includes a former bank employee looking for a job for almost a year, an assembly line worker at a car parts plant that moved to Mexico and a former manager of a bank in Japan who has had trouble finding a job since returning to America.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

The fallout from a troubled economy, of course, is the loss of jobs. The unemployment rate now stands at just over six percent, and some economists expect another jump when the Labor Department releases new jobless figures tomorrow. Frances Banks(ph), Melanie Caitola(ph) and Merida Rhodes(ph) are among the many now out of work, and are concerned there may not be any new jobs out there. All three live in the Nashville area, and they joined us from a studio there.

Ms. FRANCES BANKS: My name is Frances and I live in a small town in Perry County. I worked for Fisher & Company for 20 years. And Fisher & Company moved their location to Mexico, and I've been laid off for two months.

Ms. MELANIE CAITOLA: Hi, I'm Melanie Caitola. I actually wasn't laid off. I'd been living in Japan for the past 10 years, and I had great success there in the business world, climbed up the corporate ladder. We decided it was time to return back to the United States. I very naively made the assumption that returning back to my own country would be, you know, fairly easy for me to find a job.

MONTAGNE: Merida Rhodes, tell us about your situation.

Ms. MERIDA RHODES: OK. I worked for the Federal Reserve Bank for 22 years in check processing. And check processing moved to Atlanta, and so that left several of us without a job. And kind of like Frances, I was, you know, I had my job for 22 years, and it's basically all I know. And so it's kind of scary. People don't want to train you for these new jobs. They might talk to you and have an interview with you, and you think everything is going fine, but then they call you back and say you don't have enough experience in this and that.

Ms. CAITOLA: At least they call you back. I am getting, like, no response.

Ms. RHODES: Well, yeah. I am getting a few callbacks, but you really have to rely on your faith.

Ms. BANKS: That's true about the faith part.

MONTAGNE: And that's Frances. You're in your 50s.

Ms. BANKS: Yeah, this is Frances. And then when you do go for a job interview, most of the time what they offer you is a temporary. You have to go through a temporary service. And when you go through a temporary service, you have no insurance, no benefits, and, you know, you don't know if you're going to have any - I don't have any insurance at all. My insurance is gone as of today.

MONTAGNE: When you were laid off, Merida Rhodes, did you get severance?

Ms. RHODES: Yes, I did.

MONTAGNE: And you share a household with your mother. Is that making a difference? Is it sort of a financial cushion?

Ms. RHODES: Well, not much. I mean, you know, we're blessed, more blessed than some. But, I mean, it's still rough. You're paying ungodly amounts for insurance, and it's not like the insurance I had when I was working. And then, like, you know, your gas and your food. You know, everything else still stays the same except for your income.

MONTAGNE: Now, Frances Banks, you have three children, three step children.

Ms. BANKS: Yes, ma'am.

MONTAGNE: Are they in a position to help you?

Ms. BANKS: No, ma'am. Well, I mean, they've got their own lives. They've got their own homes they're paying for. And, you know, I don't expect them - I really don't expect them to help me because they've got their own lives. They've got their own children. And they're trying to keep they're own families up. They would help if I needed it.

MONTAGNE: If you were really desperate.

Ms. BANKS: If I was really down and desperate, they would, you know, they would help me the best they could. But, you know, I don't want to rely on them. It may be wrong, but I guess that's just pride talking.

Ms CAITOLA: I've actually got a comment for that. I'm Melanie. And my parents are retired. They're around 60 years old. They lost a lot of money on Monday, you know, and that from their only nest egg. I really feel that I need to prepare myself and my career so that in 10 or 20 years, I can take care of them.

MONTAGNE: And what? Maybe also yourself should you find yourself in this situation and...

Ms. CAITOLA: Oh, certainly.

MONTAGNE: Twenty or 30 years.

Ms. CAITOLA: And I'm also assuming that Social Security is not going to exist by the time I retire. And the way the economy's going, I am not sure if I can depend on the government for anything when it comes time for my retirement. So I really think that there is a lot of pressure on me to really set myself up for my own retirement and my parents.

MONTAGNE: Well, thank all three of you for joining us and talking about this part of your lives.

Ms. BANK: Thank you.

Ms. RHODES: Thank you.

Ms. CAITOLA: Thank you for having us.

MONTAGNE: I've been talking to Merida Rhodes, to Frances Banks, and to Melanie Caitola, all of them speaking to us from Nashville, Tennessee.

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