The analysts pore over the numbers every month, the full menagerie of economic indicators. President Obama and Mitt Romney trade barbs over who is at fault for a sluggish recovery. But here, in a region with one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, other numbers often loom larger.
There are the roughly 1,600 résumés that Byron Reeves has sent out since he lost his job in accounting nearly four years ago, and the paltry 10 or so interviews they have produced. There is the $300 check that Yundra Thomas could not write to send his daughter to band camp, because he has been out of work for six months.
Each week, Mr. Reeves and Mr. Thomas gather with 40 or so other unemployed workers in a small, barren and fluorescent-lit room here, in a kind of self-help program that is part of California’s official effort to help residents find jobs. Most have been unemployed for months or years. Time spent with them at several gatherings over many months reveals a postrecession landscape where grim frustration battles with the simple desire to find a way out.
They were once advertising executives, engineers, social workers, teachers and purchasing managers. Now they come week after week, dressed for the office, carrying binders full of résumés and leads for potential jobs. They refine what they call their “60-second commercial” — a way to pitch themselves to nearly anyone they meet. When the three-hour meetings end, they mosey over, some reluctantly, to a table packed with day-old bread donated by a supermarket…