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September 21, 2014

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The faces of the recession in Las Vegas

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Steve Marcus

Francisco Pulido, 52, an operating engineer, lost his job with the opening of CityCenter, where worked on construction for two years.

Although the local unemployment rate decreased from 13 percent in October to 12.1 percent in November, most economists don’t think the situation has improved for workers in Southern Nevada. The decrease is because fewer people are looking for work, either because they’ve quit trying or moved away. In fact, companies are still laying off workers.

Last week at the Henderson office of Nevada JobConnect — the agency tasked with helping folks find work, acquire new skills and get the unemployment benefits they’re owed — the Sun interviewed four jobless Southern Nevadans. Three were newly unemployed.

Francisco Pulido

Francisco Pulido, 52, was born in Mexico and came to this country 38 years ago. He is now a citizen. He had never been unemployed until this month.

He was laid off two weeks ago, during CityCenter’s grand-opening week. He had spent the last 2 1/2 years working on that massive resort complex.

He’s a member of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 12, but he is No. 955 on a work list with 955 names, so he is the last person the union will call to offer any available work.

As he stood outside the unemployment office Wednesday, a harsh wind brought tears down his cheeks. “I’m a little bit nervous because I don’t know what’s gonna happen,” he says.

Pulido and his wife have four children, ages 15, 13, 12 and 4. He plans on staying in the Las Vegas Valley with his family for the time being because he is holding onto hope that things will turn around.

But, Pulido adds, he can only stay for so long before he will be forced to leave, in search of work.

Beatrice Collins

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Beatrice Collins, 30, a former pit clerk at the Cannery, has had two job interviews and is hopeful, she says.

Even when Beatrice Collins had work, life was hard. From her apartment on Boulder Highway, she took a three-hour bus ride up to the Cannery in North Las Vegas for her job as a pit clerk, changing buses three times. When she finished work at 3 a.m., she had to walk 45 minutes on a sketchy stretch of road to catch the nearest bus, for the start of another three-hour bus ride.

By the time Collins got home, it was time to begin preparing her three children, ages 11, 8 and 6, for school.

They lost their apartment after Collins, 30, lost her job in November. She is still waiting to get her first unemployment check. These bureaucratic snafus are not uncommon.

Her children knew Christmas this year would have to be postponed until mom can find a job, she says.

After submitting numerous applications around town, Collins has had two job interviews and is hopeful. Still, she can’t sleep these days. “I’m constantly worrying. What’s going to happen? I didn’t know how bad it was until this happened to me.”

The stresses keep coming. Her youngest son was recently found to be blind in one eye.

“You just have to hope,” she says.

She’s not waiting for fortune, however. She has two years toward a bachelor’s degree and is now determined to finish.

Heather Teixeira

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Heather Teixeira, 40, a former account executive at GES, cut back on a lot of expenses even before she lost her job.

Heather Teixeira is exactly the type of person Nevada’s elite say they want to attract to the state. She came here with a college degree from the Bay Area seven years ago, after she burned out on the dot-com crash and expensive real estate.

It took some time, but soon Teixeira — pronounced “like the baseball player,” she says, referring to the New York Yankee — found work in her old field of event and trade show planning.

She rose from an entry-level position at GES, a trade show contractor, to supervisor and then account executive.

She and her husband bought a house in Anthem and started a family. Their daughter, Madison, is 11 months old.

But Teixeira was laid off a month ago and is collecting unemployment benefits for the first time in her life.

Her husband is a Teamster at the convention center, but the work is not regular when convention business is down, so he hasn’t had work for two weeks.

Earlier this year they saw that the economic collapse was likely to catch up with them, so they cut back on spending and saved as much as they could.

Since the layoff, Teixeira has cut more expenses — no more XM radio, no more landline phone at the house, no more daily newspaper. If there’s been an upside, it has been time with Madison, as well as the simplest, least materialistic holiday season ever.

The joblessness hasn’t quite hit her yet. “I’m still in shock.” But her husband worries and is having trouble sleeping.

“I’m trying to stay positive and enjoy this time with our daughter,” she says.

Ron Jacobs

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Ron Jacobs, 52, has been in Las Vegas for a decade. He has been unemployed for a year, working last at Desert Springs Hospital.

For the long-term unemployed like Ron Jacobs, all the newly jobless only make things harder — more competition in a job market already glutted with too many workers.

Jacobs spent 18 years as an airplane mechanic at Northrop Grumman in Southern California. He worked on the Navy’s F-18 Hornet.

He has experienced the frustrations of the modern American economy, which for a generation now has forced companies to live by a simple rule: cut costs, downsize and do more with less.

Jacobs moved to the valley a decade ago when the going was good: He was a telephone technician at Sprint but was laid off when that company morphed into Embarq. (For those keeping score, it’s now CenturyLink.)

Next, he was a loan officer, but lost that job in 2006 when the air started seeping out of the housing bubble. He operated a forklift at Ocean Spray. He worked at Desert Springs Hospital until his company lost its contract there.

Now unemployed a year, Jacobs has applied for at least 200 jobs, he says. His unemployment benefits have run out, and he’s staying with a friend. “I’m very anxious,” Jacobs says.

He had hoped the election of President Barack Obama would make things better, but he’s disappointed. “Where are the green jobs? How do I train for them? How do I find them?”

He’ll be eligible for his Northrop retirement at 55, but until then, he needs a job, any job.

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