Oklahoma Families Coping Without Work

Tuesday, May 19th 2009, 4:04 pm
By: News On 6

By Craig Day, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- Chances are you or someone you know has lost a job.  Maybe it's a friend or family member or maybe you go to church with them.  The News On 6 profiles several families to find out what it is like and how they are staying positive as they look for work.

The unemployment rate in Oklahoma is just shy of 6%.  That ranks us as the 6th lowest state in the country.  But, for those 6% looking for work right now is a tough task.

Brad McDonald, a laid off magazine delivery man says music is a stress reliever since he lost his job.

"It's discouraging no matter what.  Just gotta keep at it," said Brad McDonald.   

Rhonda Packer lost her job as a customer service representative in April of last year.

"The money that was coming in stopped.  It stopped.  So now what?" said Rhonda Packer.

Another family struggling is a young couple.  Paul and Jennifer Hughes are the parents of three children under the age of three.  Paul was laid off from the oil field.

"As soon as it started taking a little downfall, they didn't call anybody back to work," said Paul Hughes.

All face the challenge of finding work in the down economy and the uncertainty of what will come next.

For Brad McDonald, it's day 26 of unemployment. 

He's searching job websites at the library.  McDonald's been looking for work, but hasn't had much luck so far.  His unemployment benefits begin soon.  McDonald's never been in this situation before.

"Never not had a job.  Every time I've left one job to the next job, I've always had the other one lined up," said Brad McDonald.

Rhonda Packer is also sending out resumes and filling out applications.  So far, she has sent out 300.

"Some days are hard, worse than others.  Rejection isn't fun," said Rhonda Packer.

For Packer it's day 296 of unemployment.  She's had some temp jobs, but nothing permanent.  She's worried now that the nation is in recession.

"Paying bills.  Paying bills.  Being able to make your mortgage payment, just your everyday bills," said Rhonda Packer.

Packer says it's a challenge, but she's making it.

The situation facing Paul and Jennifer Hughes is much more dire.

"It's been hard.  Very hard," said Jennifer Hughes.         

When work in the oil field stopped, the young couple was thrown into a financial tailspin.

"People just don't understand how hard it is, if they haven't been there," said Paul Hughes.

Paul's had some work restoring cars.  Jennifer is cleaning houses, but on day 274, there's still no full time job.

They don't have credit card debt, but they're four months behind on rent and are being evicted.  Their water and electric will be shut off soon.

"It's like you're walking along and you're having a great time.  All of a sudden you fall for no reason.  You can't get back up.  You cannot bring yourself to stand back up.  As hard as you try, you just can't get back on your feet," said Paul Hughes.

Meanwhile, just as Brad McDonald was considering cashing in his 401K to get by, he lands a new job on day 39 of unemployment.

"The unemployment wasn't getting enough to pay all of my bills or any of that, it was kind of stretching pretty tight on doing anything," said Brad McDonald.

While Brad is thrilled; Rhonda Packer is still looking.

With no job, Packer says eating out is out of the question and she's very price conscious at the grocery store.  No bills are behind, but she's worried it could happen.  But, she's confident, she'll find something.

Finally, she does.

"Relieved and happy.  I don't have that stress now, that I did before and it took a weight off my shoulders," said Rhonda Packer.

So far, there hasn't been a rebound for the Hughes family.

"We're making it, but it's really, really, really tough," said Paul Hughes.

The couple is moving their belongings out of their rent house.  It's been hard.  And, it is getting harder.

"Are we going to be able to put diapers on them?  Are we going to have a roof over our heads?" said Jennifer Hughes.

The couple says help from family has been a blessing.  They pray.  And, the smiles of their children get them through.

The Hughes moved into an RV on a family member's car lot where Paul repairs cars.

A month later, he says work has picked up some, and without rent, they can breathe a little easier.

"We're doing OK.  We're doing better than we were before.  We don't have to worry about bills here and things like that," said Paul Hughes.

Which Hughes says it a fresh start.

While all three situations are different, the worry has been the same.  And, all those speaking with The News On 6 say optimism is important as they re-enter the job market and put their futures on a firmer foundation.