Back in August, a good three months before Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan finally made it official, Terry Ballard of Cypress pretty much knew the economy was heading downhill.
In June, she had been laid off from a $45,000-a-year job as a facilities engineer for Douglas Aircraft Co., one of the estimated 8,000 Douglas workers who had been or were going to be laid off this year.
When she was interviewed in August, Ballard, who turns 53 today, was feeling down but hopeful. She and her husband, Marvin, a Douglas engineer whose job does not appear to be in jeopardy, had a healthy savings account and felt they could adjust their standard of living until Ballard found work. They didn’t think it would take longer than a few weeks.
It’s been six months now and she is still job hunting. There’s a fatigue in her voice that wasn’t there last summer:
“We are probably pulling from our savings in terms of maintaining some rental properties that we have. I guess we still have the attitude that two weeks from now I’ll have a job. But it’s been six months, and you finally realize it’s not going to turn around in two weeks. With the economy going down, you kind of realize, too, that you aren’t the only one down here.”
Ballard still scours the classifieds and attends job fairs.
“You reach out to anyone you can think of,” she said. “You find yourself telling people in the supermarket that you’re out of a job and looking. It’s frustrating.”
The Ballards have tried to keep a lid on expenses, but are still eating in restaurants. “We might go to less expensive places, but we still go out to dinner. Maybe we’re keeping our head in the sand, but I guess we feel that this is our social level and these are the things we like to do.”
The hardest part about not having a regular schedule, said Ballard, is getting motivated.
“I find myself not functioning, not making things happen around the house, such as wallpapering the bathroom,” she said. “I am the type of person who is better organized if I have something to do.”
And, the insensitivity of well-meaning friends and relatives can compound the misery of job hunting, she said.
“Everyone says, ‘You must enjoy this--being home, being a lady of leisure.’ Well, that really wore off after two months--sleeping late, doing my own gardening. And everybody looks at the multitude of jobs in the classifieds, but they don’t realize that the job that looks so terrific in the paper is in Santa Monica and you’d be driving two hours each way or have to take a 50% cut in the salary you used to make.”
After the holidays, Ballard figures she’ll have to lower her sights: “I think I would accept even less salary, maybe even a less senior position, or drive a little farther than I’d like. Or maybe I’m not supposed to be working that job (facilities engineer). Maybe I should go to work selling blouses.
“Some of my job skills are unusual for women, and then I wonder if I’m not getting the jobs because I’m a woman. Then I look at myself in the mirror and say, ‘Well, you really look like a real estate lady, maybe you should do that . . . . ‘ “