'The worst time of my life': The job hunt remains a struggle

Friday, September 16th, 2011 

Unemployment rates were up in 26 states and the District of Columbia in August, according to new data released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Eight states and the District had rates higher than the national average of 9.1 percent. In raw numbers, New York had the biggest drop in employment, followed by Georgia. The District of Columbia came third, with 12,500 people falling into unemployment. 

Unemployment in D.C. has consistently been above the national average. And some areas are particularly hard-hit. The District is organized into wards, and two wards had unemployment rates close to 20 percent earlier this year, according to the Brookings Institution. 

The Investigative Reporting Workshop interviewed dozens of people looking for work in the District and those who counsel and serve them. As the stories below show, the hunt for work remains a serious challenge for residents of the nation's capital. 

Emanuela Cebert

Emanuela Cebert, 25, talks about how difficult it is to find work in her field — even with a master's degree. With debts to pay and no job, Cebert weighs her options.

Gloria Morrison

Gloria Morrison, 26, lives with her retired mother, debt-burdened sister and college-enrolled niece. She is desperate to contribute, but faces challenges finding employment as an ex-offender.


Judy Valencia

Judy Valencia, 30, is an employment specialist at Catholic Charities, a nonprofit organization aiming to reduce poverty on a national level. She is an advocate for strengthening the "human contact" between employer and job-seekers and sheds light on the disadvantages of moving the job- application process online.


Tara Flemming

Tara Flemming, 60, is living on a friend's couch to cut expenses until she can find a job, saying she is "willing to do anything" to gain employment.


Tonolin Young

Street vendor Tonolin Young, 45, talks about how the economy has slowed business and how he keeps afloat.


Tanya Duncanson

Tanya Duncanson has experience but no degree, which has made her job search all the more difficult.


Joan Kuriansky

Joan Kuriansky, executive director of Wider Opportunities for Women, explains how raising the minimum wage could be an effective way to ensure the working poor have enough to make ends meet.


Carlos Day

Carlos Day only has $20 to his name, but talks about the need to stay fit and "vibrant" as a strategy to securing a job.


Sean Gordy

Sean Gordy, program manager of the Department of Employment Services' "One-Stop" career center in Northeast Washington, speaks on the need for job-training and placement programs.


Susan Travers

Susan Travers, a case manager at the Department of Employment Services' "One-Stop" career center in Washington, D.C., says there is increased stress for job-seekers and case managers alike.


Lisa Ridgeway

Lisa Ridgeway, 42, has 25 years of work experience, but says her age may play a role in employer's hiring practices.


James Wilkerson

James Wilkerson, 55, a baker with 25 years of experience before being laid off from his most recent position at Costco, talk about his frustrating experiences during this recession.














What Went Wrong

Donald Barlett and James Steele are revisiting America: What Went Wrong, their landmark 1991 newspaper series, in a new project with the Investigative Reporting Workshop. Over the next year, the project team will examine how four decades of public policy has shaped America's ongoing economic crisis.


Back Story

The authors talk about What Went Wrong

Donald Barlett and James Steele talk about the project, and why they decided to revisit a book they wrote two decades ago, in a series of video clips produced by the Workshop.

Nation's Story

Who pays the taxes?

Who pays the taxes?

We feature charts, maps, photos and other visualizations that reflect the state of the economy as part of our What Went Wrong project. This column chart shows the growing disparity between what individuals and corporations pay in taxes. In the 1950s, the difference was 22 percent. Recent figures show the difference is 62 percent.

Rags to rags: Economic mobility hard to come by

New Pew Center on States report confirms that moving up the American economic ladder is difficult, even though most people have more income than their parents.

Homelessness takes it toll on Florida's youngest

Florida, as a center of the housing boom, still struggles to recover from the Great Recession. Financial stresses and widespread foreclosures have placed families in precarious situations, resulting in a spike in child homelessness. Susannah Nesmith reports in the Broward Bulldog.

Older workers face challenges in Silicon Valley

An advanced degree and experience in the tech sector should be a ticket to a job in today's economy. But older workers in the heart of the new economy, Silicon Valley, are finding their resume is not the issue. Aaron Glantz reports in The Bay Citizen.

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Read an Excerpt

The Betrayal of the American Dream on Google Books

The Betrayal of the American Dream on Google Books

Check out the first chapter of Barlett and Steele's 2012 book here.