Man's job turns life around
The four-year search for a steady paycheck by Jerome Dumas — a quest that for so long seemed fruitless but now is fulfilled — may symbolize a turn in the local and state job market.
In the spring of 2008, just before the economy crashed in what’s became known as the Great Recession, Dumas was laid off from a job at a local furniture factory because of a downturn in business. At the time, the economy was struggling but hadn’t nose-dived. So the 44-year-old native of Mount Gilead, who moved to High Point seven years ago, thought he would find a new, full-time job in a matter of months.
Dumas never imagined, in his worst fears, that it would take until the fall of last year before he secured a steady paycheck. The U.S. Army veteran of the Persian Gulf War now works as a mechanic at TIMCO Aviation Services Inc., at its aircraft maintenance operation at Piedmont Triad International Airport. But getting there spanned the time frame of one presidential term, four Christmas holiday seasons and more than 230 weeks without a regular paycheck.
“At times, you want to quit,” Dumas recalled about the most discouraging periods of his job search. “But I had the encouragement of people who said, ‘Just hang in there.’ The Lord, he pulled me through.”
Symbolizing shift in job market
The example of Dumas finally finding a new job may reflect a turn, finally, in the overall job market. Last year the state posted a net gain of 72,400 more jobs, or 1.8 percent more positions than at the start of last year.
“Relatively strong payroll growth during the fourth quarter of 2012, particularly in November, resulted in the highest annual rate of job growth posted in the last five years,” said John Quinterno, a principal with economic research firm South by North Strategies based in Chapel Hill.
The improvement in the labor market is reflected locally. The city of High Point’s jobless rate in November was 9.4 percent, down from 10.9 percent in November 2011, according to the most recent municipal job figures available from the N.C. Division of Employment Security.
From November 2011 to this past November, 1,426 more workers were listed as employed in the city, while 700 fewer people were recorded as unemployed, the state’s job service agency indicates.
A personal example of recession’s wrath
The struggle by Dumas to find a job parallels the path of the Great Recession. When he lost his previous job in April 2008, he never imagined that he’d be out of the work force for four years.
“I’d always worked. So I was thinking in a few months I’ll find something. But the road really went longer,” he told The High Point Enterprise.
After searching without success for a job through 2008, Dumas enrolled in the aviation training program at Guilford Technical Community College. When he earned his associate’s degree in aviation technology, he became only the second member of his family to receive a college diploma.
While at GTCC and after he finished his courses, Dumas kept looking for work. But during the height of the Great Recession, he went extended periods where there were few, if any, job listings.
Dumas got by during his long, personal run of unemployment through extended jobless benefits, severance from his previous employer, support from his family and help from his church, High Point Church of the Living God. Fortunately, his wife Stephanie Dumas kept a job while her husband was out of work, meaning the family did have a source of regular income.
“A lot of people were a blessing for us,” Dumas said. “But a lot of times you had to swallow hard to keep going, let faith keep you going. But I made it, though.”
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Yearly net gain or loss of jobs statewide since onset of Great Recession:
2008 — Loss of 115,400 jobs, 2.8 percent decline
2009 — Loss of 204,500 jobs, 5 percent decline
2010 — Gain of 42,100 jobs, 1.1 percent gain
2011 — Gain of 33,300 jobs, 0.9 percent gain
2012 — Gain of 72,400 jobs, 1.8 percent gain
Source: South by North Strategies