Las Vegas Sun

October 22, 2014

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face of unemployment:

Discouraged by lack of jobs, a woman looks to leave

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Becky Bosshart

Cynthia Stone, 53, is considering traveling overseas — to do the job she used to get paid enough to do here, near friends and family. After 24 years in the pharmacy tech field, she feels her experience has priced her out of the market. As for leaving her career, she feels one strong obstacle: “my age.”

Cynthia Stone is a 53-year-old grandmother who is trying to leave everything behind in Las Vegas.

She wants to leave behind unemployment, which came to her after 24 years in the health care field, and a 2007 home foreclosure.

Stone calls herself a trusting person who made some bad investment decisions. Those decisions sucked up her savings and caused her to lose her home two years ago.

Staring at dead ends, she says she's ready to move on.

"I have branched outside of the state in hopes of finding employment that way," Stone said. She said she's even looking at international traveling agencies.

That means Stone could leave her 7-year-old grandson and family to find health care work on another continent. She's also looking in California, but is tempering her hopes: Unemployment there, like in Nevada, has climbed above 10 percent.

Stone is yet another face of unemployment. She was laid off in March after eight years as a certified pharmacy technician at University Medical Center. She says she's willing to work for less than what she was making before. Stone was recently hired elsewhere at a salary about half the $55,000 she was making annually at Clark County's hospital but was informed this week that there are no longer any hours in the budget at that job.

Every morning she is in front of the computer in her two-bedroom apartment in northwest Las Vegas, surfing employment Web sites. Those in the health care field have the highest in-demand careers with the highest average salary, but Stone can't seem to find a job.

"It's the one industry that has grown through the recession," said Jered McDonald, an economist with the Nevada Department of Employment Training and Rehabilitation.

He said historically there has been a lack of supply in the state. The population is getting older and there are fewer health care workers per person. The top three jobs in demand in 2009 are registered nurses, medical assistants and nursing aides.

But pharmacy technicians are not one of the hot jobs. McDonald speculated on the reasons.

"Pharmacies are seeing a downturn so they can't afford to keep on assistants, so the pharmacist is doing the work," he said. "Or maybe there was a glut with students going into this field."

Stone came to Las Vegas in 1994, when the area was booming for workers in every field. Stone said she's found herself over-experienced and priced out of the market.

"I'm probably considered an old fossil and a lot of employers are probably looking for someone fresh, inexperienced so that they can train them the way they'd like them to be trained at a far reduced income level than what I've seen," she said. "It's a challenging position to be in because I have to accept that and let the employer know the income isn't the key factor, but it's the (health) benefits they offer."

Despite Stone's opinions on the age gap, current state unemployment claims show age distribution is equal, McDonald said.

Those aged 25 to 34 make up 23 percent of all those who claim unemployment. Those aged 35 to 44 and 45 to 54 both make up 24 percent of claims. The remaining claims are spread out among other age groups.

Stone doesn't have any savings or resources to get training in another field. For now, unemployment has covered the bills. Stone said she hopes to be gone from Las Vegas in a month, whether that's to California, or beyond.

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