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Out of Work in America: Broken promises from one job after another

Out of Work in America: Broken promises from one job after another

From the Out of Work in America: Following Americans who found themselves out of work series
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Editor's note: Americans have endured economic crises before but none quite like this. To capture the depths of the suffering, The New York Times teamed up with local news organizations across the country, including the Arizona Daily Star, to document the lives of a dozen Americans who found themselves out of work. Find the entire project here.

Anthony Lucier, 35, lives alone in Carlisle, Pa. He was laid off from his job as an inventory coordinator at a local Toyota dealership in June after six years. We first spoke with Mr. Lucier in July.

I worked really hard for those guys for six years. I gave them my all. I was given the old-fashioned “You stay, you put your time in, you work hard, you move up.” Then Covid happened. I was furloughed for a few weeks in March, and then we qualified for a loan. Then they brought us all back to work even though we were in the red phase of the pandemic. Near the end of that loan, I was told my position with the company was going to be eliminated. There were other positions, and I applied for all of them, but for whatever reason, I wasn’t given an opportunity to move to a different area of the business.

When I was furloughed, I was fine. It wasn’t until I was laid off where I was like, “OK, I can’t just mope around, I gotta go do something.” So I started throwing out applications everywhere. I figured, “OK, something’s bound to happen. I’m bound to get a call back.” Second week goes by: “Oh, all right.” After about the third week, that’s when I started to get concerned because I’ve never really needed a job before. That was weird. I was shocked, I was afraid, and I was out of my comfort zone. The only callback I received was from a fine wine and spirits store in York County. They hired me. I’m hoping that with time it’ll grow into something that’s more full-time, and it’ll turn out to be something that I can actually pay my bills and my rent on.

I found myself on unemployment, and that was weird. And I’m still technically on unemployment to make up for any pay that I’m not receiving compared to what I used to receive. I’m filling out web pages full of information and hopefully getting some income from the government. I think it’s great, but it is weird. I didn’t think at any point in my life that I would be here, especially in my mid-30s.

This is hypothetical, but let’s say Gov. Tom Wolf hits the newsstand tomorrow and says, “Hey, sorry. The bank’s tapped. We’re not going to be able to offer you any more unemployment.” If I get laid off again, that’s probably it for me. At that point, I’m not going to be able to pay my rent, I’m not going to be able to pay my bills. I won’t be able to make my car payment. At that point, I’m either going to be out on the street or maybe I can move back in with my parents, which is not something a guy in his 30s is looking forward to.

Unemployment is nice because it’s a safety net. I knew I wouldn't starve. But I feel like the quicker you can get off of it, the better, especially, right now, when there are millions of other people who are also collecting unemployment. I want to make a move as quickly as possible and try to get my life back on track.

September: ‘It’s about human life’

I’ve been transferred to a store about two minutes from home. I’m still in a similar position, hoping to move up and get more hours, but I was driving an hour to York County. 

I’m not real happy with the way President Trump has handled, or continues to handle, the pandemic. I think what he’s doing is hurting more than helping. First, he started with, “I built the greatest economy this country has ever known,” which is not true. And now he’s talking about bringing that back, which I think is great, but you can’t do that until you deal with the pandemic properly. And not only is he ignoring it, but he takes steps to limit and slow down testing. He continues to go to his rallies; he’s encouraging people to gather in rallies. For me, it’s about human life. There’s about 200,000 people dead, and we’re still counting.

October: ‘People are pretty angry’ 

Thinking about the future is challenging. As far as the job market goes, I think it’s going to be tougher than usual in some areas over the next few years, but maybe it’ll be easier in some areas with some changes. There are a lot of businesses that are doing the mobile app, the DoorDash staff.

But the thing is, I think people are already pretty angry, and they’re going to get angrier if we have to keep wearing masks. I got into a screaming match with a lady the other day. She didn’t want to wear a mask, and it’s our store policy that we can’t allow anyone into the building without a mask. If I serve somebody, I could lose my job. And people, they come in there looking for a fight. They’re angry and upset and they want to fight with someone. This lady came in and was screaming about how the Supreme Court overruled Gov. Wolf. And I had to say, “I don’t care. This is our store policy, I have to abide by it and I’m not willing to get fired for your bottle of Jameson.”

As far as the job market goes in the future, it’s hard to say. People are finding new and different ways to work around the pandemic. And some people are stuck. I’m happy I found a job; it doesn’t pay as much as I was getting and the hours are less than I was getting, but it’s something. And there’s a lot of people out there who aren’t as lucky as I am.

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