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April 18, 2015

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Frustration, depression plague longtime unemployed


Christopher DeVargas

Las Vegas resident Donna McQuinn searches through a list of job openings at Nevada Job Connect on South Maryland Parkway on Friday, Sept. 16, 2011.

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Las Vegas resident Donna McQuinn searches through a list of job openings at Nevada Job Connect on South Maryland Parkway on Friday, Sept. 16, 2011.

She was a productive member of the community, held casino industry jobs for most of her professional life. Now, Donna McQuinn senses that people look past her, an invisible character in a country where self-worth is often measured by the jobs we fill.

She is a high school graduate but has no college degree. She hasn’t had a job for two years.

She’s eight days late in paying the $158 weekly rent at a rundown residential hotel near Maryland Parkway, and could find herself homeless any day. After 99 weeks of unemployment benefits that expired months ago, she’s down to her last $70, surviving on $200 a month in food stamps. Night after night, she eats just noodles.

“I’ve lost my sense of self-esteem,” McQuinn said. “I call it being a person, and I’ve lost that. I used to have hope. I still want to hold onto it, but it’s very hard to feel hopeful. I cry every night. I couldn’t make it on the streets if I had to. It’s scary out there.”

The former casino cage worker at Strip and Lake Tahoe casinos was one of an estimated 400 people checking job postings Friday at Nevada JobConnect on Maryland Parkway, one of several operated by the Nevada Employment, Training and Rehabilitation Department.

She had not heard the newest numbers, released Friday, which placed the state’s unemployment rate for August at 13.4 percent, up from 12.9 percent in July. Both were better than the statewide figure of 14.9 percent recorded in August 2010.

The depressed construction industry continued to be a chief contributor to the state’s worst employment environment since the 1930s, a dynamic that was intensified by California’s worsening jobs market, which saw its unemployment rate climb to 12.1 percent last month. The Nevada neighbor is the chief driver of this state’s tourism economy.

No matter, McQuinn and the other job seekers do not require an economics degree to grasp the depth of the ongoing collapse. The state agency had more than 200 positions posted on its jobs board Friday morning, ranging from minimum-wage sales positions to $36,000-a-year marketing jobs.

Like many of those scouring the job listings, McQuinn has applied for hundreds of jobs during the past two years, rarely getting a call for an interview. “Age is playing a big role,” noted Debbie Kirkland, a 56-year-old former elementary schoolteacher who sat two chairs over from McQuinn, who nodded in agreement.

“I wish I had more training. I might be old but I can still learn,” the ex-casino worker said. “Back in the day I could fill out an application and always get the job I wanted.”

She’s not comfortable working on a computer, never had to when she was changing cash for casino chips at the Mirage and Caesars Palace and Caesars Tahoe, and can’t afford a laptop or broadband service to search for jobs from home. The JobConnect office has computers and Internet service, so McQuinn muddles through as she fills out online applications, but she finds the process dehumanizing. Corporate human resources departments never call back or send letters explaining whether or why they chose others for the jobs.

“The HR world is very cold,” said Ben Daseler, office supervisor at the Nevada JobConnect location on Maryland Parkway.

A year ago McQuinn was jumped by a group of teens as she walked along a downtown Las Vegas sidewalk. She was bloodied and bruised, further shaking her shattered confidence. “When I had a job, I was a somebody. Now I’m more of a nobody,” she said, “and people sense that. They look right through you.”

She has contemplated suicide but has found the strength to push ahead. “I want to work. I want to work. I want to work,” she said, her intensity level increasing as she repeated each sentence.

“Unemployment just leads to more homelessness, more depression and the suicide rates will keep going up. You lose something when you don’t feel worthy. I’ve gone two years without a job, and there’s no one in your life to say you’re doing good. We all need a place to go, a place that makes you feel productive and good about yourself. We all do.”

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  1. Quoted from the story; "She's not comfortable working on a computer"
    That, in itself, will make you unemployable.

    I wish the best to this lady, and I hope she gets comfortable around a computer soon. It's how people work today.

  2. Next,
    Please explain the existence of all the computer trained people who are long term unemployed.

  3. Berns -- good job on putting some faces on the reality ordinary people have to face daily.

    "And with the casinos gouging the tourists..."

    Darthfrodo -- compared to the predators with badges actively on the hunt for all minor violations, the casinos are lightweights.

    Government ignores the daily struggles of people like those in this article who are just doing the best they can to get by. Having the basics, like somewhere to live and enough to eat, are hard enough. To get a $1,200 ticket from Metro because you have a crack in your windshield is devastating, and the local courts demand to be paid NOW. Then there's that B$ DMV registration scheme designed to trap all Nevada motorists. All of it designed to keep thousands of parasites feeding on the public teat that has run dry.

    Government needs to get real, downsize and leave the rest of us alone!!

    "If the exercise of constitutional rights will thwart the effectiveness of a system of law enforcement, then there is something very wrong with that system." -- Escobedo v. State of Illinois, 378 U.S. 478, 490 (1964)

  4. <<Isn't McDonalds or another food service company hiring?>>

    McDonalds? Where have you been? McDonalds hire people, mostly kids, pay them minimum wage and they work maybe 15hrs a week. Haven't you been paying attention? Even jobs at McDonalds are at a premium and they certainly aren't going to hire a 50-something year old.

  5. <<Next,
    Please explain the existence of all the computer trained people who are long term unemployed>>


    It's the "age thing". When I was unemployed, I went to computer classes to keep up my skills and learn new ones at least once every 6 weeks. I had been using Microsoft Office for years. It didn't matter. I finally figured it out and as much as I HATED to admit it - I was just too old!! Empployers want those who obtained "certificates" in everything, including all the Microsoft Office products....and younger than 40. I KNEW I could run circles around some of these gals (a lot of things come with 30 years experience in the legal field, including how to deal with clients, judges, court personnel, etc), but if you ain't got that certificate - forget it!! There were times I knew more than the person interviewing me!!

    The lady in this article may have to take a step in another direction if she wishes to get a job. Get out of the casino industry. Even those minimum wage hotel jobs like in housekeeping have to have a lot of competition in Vegas (I know it's like that where I live at the casino hotels and just plain old hotels!).

    I feel bad for this woman, but I was in her shoes not quite a year ago when that "too old" door hit me in the a**!! I quit looking for a law firm job and started doing customer service work - working at a grocery store, a tax preparer service; I also filled out applications for all the department stores (6 of them) and got call backs on 2 of them which got me through the holiday season last Christmas. I then gradually went into the home care field and I'm very happy now. That's one field - home care - that does not discriminate because of age because even if you're 60 - you're a "young person" compared to those you take care of!!!

  6. Its been 2years3months since NCS Construction closed its business and laid me off. And have had two construction related job interviews since then. The bottom line is I do not know enough people in this area to get hired for anything it seems. Thankfully my wife covers me on bills since my savings has run out a month ago, or I would be sounding like this lady too. I have stepped up my game on the computer end. Even formed my own company and built my own website. Its not much but i'm trying ( As much as I like living in Vegas I may have no choice but to move to a stronger economic area. It will be a sad day when it comes down to this. This lady needs to put her $70 into a bus ticket. There is no work in this town, unless you know someone. Truth.

  7. Very sad...there are many like Ms. McQuinn...they are that uncomfortable age between the old economy and the new economy...hopefully, she will find somewhere to work so that she can survive...sad...

    p.s. well stated Mr. Lamy...

  8. "Lower the min wage to $7.50 and the unemployment rate will go down."...

    OH BOY!
    That would be GREAT!
    $7.50 hr x 40 hr wk = $300 x 4 wks = $1200 mo. - taxes.
    That leaves you right around the POVERTY LEVEL, and that's if you are single.
    That will solve ALL OF OUR PROBLEMS!

  9. If she wanted a job 99 plus weeks ago, she'd have a job. Being unemployed is a choice that people make, if one can find work in their comfort zone then they best pack up and move themselves somewhere else where they can find work. She can even clean homes and do other odd jobs that do pay, there are 24-hours a day, work 20 of those hours, and she'd eventually make enough to survive. There is much she can do if she elected to do it. Now that the 99 weeks of unemployment is over, the whining starts, poor me, poor me, poor me.

  10. Being Unemployed Is A Choice People Make??? Its2hot is on Crack? What a completely ignorant thing to say. WTG

  11. How can she leave? She has no money. Now, it's her fault she's unemployed? What an ignorant statement. Computer skills are not essential to every job, so because she doesn't have them she's unemployed? What planet do you live on? We as a country have lost our moral compass so instead of compassion for those less fortunate we are looking for ways to make it THEIR fault. We should be ashamed.

  12. sevenfoot:

    And people wonder why America has become the land of human cesspool freeloaders. Comments like your's is the reason, appeasment and feel soory for peoples choices they made for their life.

    News flash for you, unemployed is a choice that people make, if anyone really wanted a job, they'd have a job. People choose to be employees or to be self employed; people choose their own density in life. Instead people choose to use the poor little me syndrome and what others aren't doing for them, nothing but lame excuses for their pathetic choices they made for their life where they expect people who opted a different road to take for their life to take care of them. Frankly, they may their bed, it's time they sleep in their bed.

  13. Timmy,
    Now, how many people are out of work and how many jobs are there when matching skills to workers? You must know at least some hard facts because otherwise the only "human cesspool" would be what you write and say and think.

  14. Mark Schaffer:

    I know many people that became unemployed and they didn't stay unemployed for more than a couple of months, that's after they returned from vacation or taking some time off to relax and enjoy their family. A few opted to change professions and found that they like being self employed doing handyman work or maid work, they're still making a living and adjusted their lifestyle accordingly to the income made and they're happy.

    As far as matching skills to workers, it is still a choice that people make. People choose to live in a comfort zone and stick to the same old routine, mindless trolls not taking the incentive to think outside the box. People also choose to stay in a community because they like it there or they've never ventured outside their comfort zone, it's a choice.

    If people thought outside the box and really tried, they'd be working doing something. Instead they have the attitude that somebody owes me or they use the poor little me syndrome where they actually believe that others are to blame for what is occurring in their life and others are too blame for them not having a job.

    If people aren't working then they need to stop making excuses, stop blaming others and get off their lazy poor little me syndrome and do something about it. They made their bed, now they can sleep in their bed. Nobody controls anyone; this is America, the land of the free where people decide their own destiny and future.

  15. My Timmy,
    You have all the easy answers. Now, out of the thousands looking how many, exactly, are the "many" you know? That could be verified to show you are are not being less than honest that is. The rest of your post is notable for it's shallow and fallacious reasoning...not that this is anything new.