MELISSA BLOCK, host:
Tomorrow, the government releases its monthly jobs report and economists are predicting another month of positive growth. That means people are getting back to work, including some of those we've been following as part of our Road Back to Work series. We are tracking six people in St. Louis who started the year unemployed.
Here's NPR's Tamara Keith with some good news from one of them.
TAMARA KEITH: Last time we heard from Annica Trotter, she had been out of work for more than three months. And she had just missed a phone call from a potential employer, an HR person at a security company.
Ms. ANNICA TROTTER: Missed the call and just wanted to cry. Like, why? Why did I have to give the kids a bath right then? So I was just kicking myself.
KEITH: Eventually, she was able to reach the HR person. She submitted an application. And then a little more than a month later, she gets the call. Trotter shares the news with her three-year-old daughter Malia.
Ms. TROTTER: Mommy has to go to talk to somebody about a job on Monday.
Ms. TROTTER: On Monday.
Ms. TROTTER: Yeah.
Today is February 28th, 2011. It's Monday and I am getting ready for an interview.
KEITH: Trotter is documenting her job search by keeping an audio diary.
Ms. TROTTER: I'm so happy that this day has finally come. I mean, this is the first interview I've been on since I've been unemployed.
KEITH: At this point, it's been four months.
Ms. TROTTER: I've had no interviews. None. No callbacks, nothing.
KEITH: She irons her power dress and feels pretty confident, right until she pulls her car into the parking lot and her confidence melts away. Trotter has butterflies but it turns out she had nothing to worry about.
Ms. TROTTER: I got the job. Insert long sigh of relief. I'm so glad to have work to look forward to again.
KEITH: Trotter is now making $14 an hour working as sort of a super receptionist, checking people's security credentials. That's actually more than she made in her last job. And the hours are perfect, too, making it possible for her and her boyfriend, Greg Perine, to drive into work at the same time -an essential since they have only one car.
Ms. TROTTER: Are you awake? Are you awake? Hi.
KEITH: It's 5:45 in the morning, on what will be Trotter's third day of work.
Ms. TROTTER: Just going to pick up your sister.
KEITH: She wakes Malia and baby brother Gregory. They'll be going to granny's house while mom and dad are at work. Trotter picks an outfit - a gray shirt with some sparkles, with a sweater over it, dark slacks. She runs a flatiron through her hair while Perine gets the kids dressed.
Mr. GREG PERINE: So, you got to go to 100.
KEITH: An hour later, the whole family, still a little groggy, piles into the car. Trotter gets dropped off first.
Mr. PERINE: All right, see you later.
Ms TROTTER: Bye, Malia.
(Soundbite of car)
KEITH: As he drives, Perine reflects on the last five months with Trotter out of work. He says he was worried, real worried. But he tried to stay calm and convince Trotter that everything was going to be all right, until it really was.
Mr. PERINE: Knowing that she has a job makes it a lot less stressful.
KEITH: That afternoon, back at home, Trotter collapses into the overstuffed couch in the living room.
Ms. TROTTER: It's so nice to come home and, you know, take off your stuffy clothes and your tight, you know, dressy pants and your nice shirt and then just get into your comfortable clothes. I forgot what that felt like.
KEITH: She wore sweatpants more than she'd like to admit while she was unemployed. But landing the job and getting that first paycheck isn't the end.
Ms. TROTTER: I have a lot of catching up to do.
KEITH: Trotter still has a mountain of bills to get current.
Ms. TROTTER: I need to pay off some stuff. And Greg needs to pay off some stuff. That's getting in the way of us getting married, and doing the things that we want to do for the kids.
KEITH: Right now, the focus is on digging out from the financial hole caused by months of unemployment.
Tamara Keith, NPR News.