As news broke Friday of national job growth since the beginning of the year, these four Long Islanders were among many still looking for work. For one Huntington father and son, searching for a job has become a family activity. Rodney LaMour, 44, and his son, Douglas Smalls, 21, spend much of their day looking for work together.
LaMour, trained as a glass glazier, has been out of work since September when his company downsized. Smalls lost his job as an overnight stocker for Kmart last month. "The opportunity to provide for my family is shattered," LaMour said. "The stress on the family is tough." He said he has been living on unemployment extensions and relying on temporary agencies to provide what little money he can to his family.
LaMour says he became discouraged around February and wasn't as active in searching for a job for a few months. "I got tired of looking," he said. "I thought 'I'm burning up my gas looking for a job. I just better hold on to my money and see what happens.' " Then, things changed. "I just got motivated after I started hearing that the job market was picking up," he said. "I figured it was time to get back out there."
'Getting back in there' includes he and his son taking trips to the Suffolk County One-Stop Employment Center, hoping the time spent there will translate into jobs for both of them.
Smalls said there's comfort in having his dad accompany him on job searches. "It motivates me to go out every day and look for work," he said. "I'm hopeful for the future."
Harris Schanhaut, 56, of Farmingville, lost his job as an events manager and planner Monday, but he's no stranger to unemployment. He was first thrust into the job market in January 2009 when a New York City company he was working for downsized. Out of work and with a wife and son to support, Schanhaut said he spent more than 70 hours a week searching for a job. "It was horrible," he said. "The outlook was terrible."
Schanhaut, who earned a bachelor's degree from the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, said he applied to more than 1,200 jobs but didn't receive an offer for permanent employment until November. The catch: the job was based in Owings Mills, Md. Determined to save his home and family, Schanhaut took the job and lived in a rented room, visiting his family about once a month.
Then Monday, Schanhaut said he was asked to leave. He spent Tuesday and Wednesday moving back to New York. By Thursday at 8:30 a.m., Schanhaut said he had applied for unemployment and was back to his job-hunting routine at the Suffolk County One-Stop Employment Center filling out applications online and signing up for meetings that he hopes will sharpen his professional skills.
This time around, he said, he is feeling somewhat more hopeful but remains worried that it may be months before he gets a job. "I am seeing more opportunities," he said. "But, it's like climbing up a smooth wall with no grips. You are going to achieve something if you work really hard. I'm afraid I'll have to move my family. But, I have to focus on providing a stable income. What choice do I have?"
Jennifer Dechico, 38, of Central Islip, worked for the Brentwood School District before being laid off in June, she said. Out of work for almost a year, Dechico said she is constantly looking for work but often gets discouraged. She is legally blind and as a result cannot drive, which she said makes it even harder for her to find work. "It's kind of frustrating," she said.
Dechico said she has experience in child care, customer service, and has also worked as a cashier. She said she visits the Suffolk County One-Stop Employment Center two or three times a week to apply for jobs and work on her resume. As a result of her disability, she receives some government aid. "It's just enough to pay rent and eat food," she said of the assistance. "It makes me feel discouraged. It makes me feel down."
Dechico said she understands why the unemployment rate would spike even as more jobs are being created. "It puts more competition in the air," she said. "It's very hard to get a job when you're disabled. I'm pounding the pavement. Companies get around hiring you without getting in trouble," she said.