By Chloe Morrison
Northwestern Technical College's Diane Mayes helps laid-off workers find new jobs. And they need help, she said, because with sudden job loss, "it is just too overwhelming for them to even think straight."
Major Sequatchie County, Tenn., employer Tecumseh Products laid off 110 workers this month, said Howard Hatcher, executive director of the Sequatchie County-Dunlap Chamber of Commerce.
Auto interiors maker Collins & Aikman in McMinn County, Tenn., shut down in August and put 445 people out of work, said Larry Green with the Cleveland, Tenn., Career Center.
Some layoffs are smaller. Syntec Industries in Walker County, Ga., recently sent home 14 people, said Johnnie Lewis, manager of the LaFayette, Ga., Career Center.
It's a major blow to suddenly lose a job, officials said. And the recent layoffs in Northwest Georgia and Southeast Tennessee also affect the region's economy.
"(Layoffs) affect the area in a couple of ways," Mr. Green said. "One is ... the traumatic effect of someone losing their job and having to go out and find work."
And because jobless people lose much of their purchasing power, other area businesses suffer, he said.
Cindy Corbitt, 34, was laid off in May 2006 from Mount Vernon Mills, a textile manufacturer in Trion, Ga. She said she experienced the trauma Mr. Green mentioned.
"I had worked (there) for 13 years," she said. "Of course, I was panicked. All I knew was working in a cotton mill."
She said she had followed her parents into the denim mill and was making "really good money, considering I only had a high school education."
After the layoff, though, Mrs. Corbitt thought she had no marketable job skills.
That's why there are area career offices, schools and chambers of commerce that can help displaced workers.
resources and retraining
LaFayette Career Center's Mrs. Lewis said layoffs generally mean a type of job has been depleted and that many people will have to be retrained to get work.
The Georgia Department of Labor and the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development have career centers around the region to help residents look for jobs.
The career centers provide services ranging from job searches to resume preparation and help finding retraining for skills in demand, Mrs. Lewis said.
Mrs. Corbitt said she went to the LaFayette Career Center and the employees provided valuable resources.
"They really worked with me and said, 'This is not the end of the world. You are a smart girl,' " she said.
Mrs. Corbitt enrolled at Northwestern Technical College and will graduate in June with a degree in management supervision.
She said the schooling and career services provided something better than a paycheck.
"At this point it is not about the money," she said. "It is about a rewarding career. I would have went to work at the next mill down the road and been stuck in a weave room for the rest of my life."
it's the economy
Mr. Green said layoffs mean people have less money to spend in local businesses.
"Generally speaking, factory workers get paid a little higher wages than the service industry," he said. "If a person is laid off in manufacturing and the next week they find a job in retail trade, it doesn't hurt the unemployment rate ... but (it hurts) purchasing power.
"If this happens more and more, it has to begin to hurt the economy," Mr. Green said.
Despite the attraction of industry jobs, Mr. Hatcher said other businesses, such as Wal-Mart or Walgreens, pay competitive wages. And he said in a small town, such as Dunlap, 100 jobs is enough to be felt.
"Wal-Mart opened a year ago," he said. "They are working about 163 people, so that sort of offsets the number of layoffs."
Mr. Hatcher said Tecumseh makes seasonal products, so employment varies.
"They are normally called back within a few weeks," he said, adding that some workers told him they expect to be rehired by April.
Despite rehires and retraining, the regional layoffs still mean personal hardships and add to cumulative worry about the economy.
Kyle Green lost his job with Colonial Printing Inc. of Chatsworth, Ga., when another company took over the print shop.
"It's distressing. You don't have the income you previously had, and you've still got the debt you previously had," said Mr. Green, who has been drawing unemployment benefits. "It has greatly affected our budget. We don't eat pizza out anymore, as we used to."
Now he is training in heating and air service at Northwestern Technical College. He said he'll have more job opportunities because the field includes residential and business service.
Linda Lansing said she is retraining after a layoff from an office job. She will graduate in the spring with a bookkeeping degree and hopes she can find work quickly, but she said she's scared about the possibility of a recession.
"I graduate March 30 and am out of unemployment on April 11," Ms. Lansing said. "I'm hoping there is a job out there."
E-mail Chloe Morrison at firstname.lastname@example.org
* Georgia: 4.2 percent
* Tennessee: 4.8 percent
* United States: 4.7 percent
Source: Departments of Labor