MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Now the latest installment in our year-long series The Road Back to Work. For the project, we've chosen to follow six unemployed people in St. Louis, and we've given them recording equipment to help us document their job search.

For some, the financial strain created by a job loss is powerful. That strain can even make it harder to find work again. Today, we get an intimate glimpse into one woman's struggles. NPR's Tamara Keith gives us an update on Annica Trotter.

TAMARA KEITH: Annica Trotter isn't making excuses. But she certainly could.

(Soundbite of baby crying)

Ms. ANNICA TROTTER: It's 10:24 p.m. on Wednesday, January 12th, and I am up applying for jobs.

KEITH: That baby you hear crying in the background is Gregory(ph). He's four months old. Trotter lost her job at a social services agency shortly after he was born.

To apply for jobs, Trotter has to connect to the Internet. But the only way she can do that is through her boyfriend Greg's(ph) cell phone.

Mr. TROTTER: Because we had to cut back on our cable and Internet services to save money. So I'm usually able to apply for jobs when he's here. And he had to work late. So I'll probably be up for the next hour or so. Here I go, clicking away.

KEITH: She plans to browse job-search websites, e-mail friends to see if they know of any prospects and apply for a few positions. But Greg and little Gregory have other plans.

GREG: I mean, really.

Ms. TROTTER: What?

KEITH: The baby is upset, and it seems mom is the only one he wants. But mom has precious little time to get on the Internet, and this is it.

KEITH: I just need like an hour and a half, maybe just an hour.

GREG: He's not going to give an hour and a half.

Ms. TROTTER: I just need an hour to do some applications.

GREG: All right.

Ms. TROTTER: I mean, it's not like I can do it when you're not here because you have your phone.

GREG: I know. (Unintelligible).

KEITH: This wouldn't be such a problem if Trotter had a regular Internet connection. But there are a lot of things that would be easier with just a little more money coming in.

Trotter is getting unemployment benefits, but it comes out to about $200 less a month than when she was working. She says they've fallen behind on a lot of bills, paying what they can, when they can. They even had to drop their car insurance.

Ms. TROTTER: Greg, just give me 15 minutes. I need just 15 minutes to fill out this application.

GREG: OK, but if he starts screaming again, I'm bringing him back.

Ms. TROTTER: All right.

KEITH: And on this night, she's really only able to steal away those 15 minutes.

Ms. TROTTER: OK, it's over. So I have completed one application. And it looks like my skills meet their criteria. So I wait.

KEITH: Annica Trotter hasn't heard anything back yet. She's documenting her job search at our request and made all of the recordings you're hearing.

Ms. TROTTER: Today is January 17, Monday, and it's been a really up-and-down kind of day. I've just been feeling really stressed. Our family is definitely feeling the pinch of me being out of work.

Last night, around 1 a.m., our phones were put on limited service.

KEITH: Because they were late on their bill.

Ms. TROTTER: So we can receive phone calls, but we can't make any phone calls.

KEITH: For days, Trotter has been waiting on a phone call from a woman in the HR department at a security company. She's hoping to get a dispatcher job. But the phone call comes while Trotter is giving her two kids a bath.

Ms. TROTTER: Missed the call and just wanted to cry because I can't call her back. Like why, why did I have to give the kids a bath right then? Why didn't I have the phone turned up a little bit louder? Why didn't I make sure the phone was in the bathroom with me instead of, you know, in the next room? So I was just kicking myself.

KEITH: Eventually, Trotter's boyfriend is able to reach the HR person by calling from his phone at work. She just wanted to let Trotter know that once she receives her application, she'll make sure it gets to the right person.

Ms. TROTTER: It just kind of sums up how this whole process, this whole situation has been from minute to minute. You just don't know. There's so much uncertainty, and I know for a person like me, it really takes a toll.

KEITH: Trotter is a worrier, and she says she's tired of worrying about money and bills and delinquent notices.

Ms. TROTTER: I've been working since I was 15. I just need a job. Give me a job, and I will work hard.

KEITH: Annica Trotter is not alone in this. There are more than 14 million Americans out of work right now.

Tamara Keith, NPR News.

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