August 3, 2009 / 5:24 AM / 8 years ago

Profiles of U.S. long-term unemployed

<p>Alvin Gains, retired Chrysler auto assembly worker after 31 years of employment, sits outside his condominium with his two sons B.J. (L) and Darnell in Sterling Heights, Michigan July 28, 2009. For the second time in 30 years Gains is leaving his home state of Michigan to find work. "The job market is dead here, said Gains, 56. "There are college kids who can't find a job, so there's no chance for someone my age".Rebecca Cook</p>

(Reuters) - Profiles of the long-term unemployed in the United States:

ALVIN GAINS, 56, former Chrysler worker

For the second time in 30 years, Alvin Gains is leaving his home state of Michigan and moving to Texas to find work.

"There are college kids who can't find a job, so there's no chance for someone my age," said Gains, 56. "But people are hiring in Houston, so it's time to go."

Gains has moved to the Houston area once before. He joined thousands of Michiganders drawn to jobs in a Texan oil boom in 1979, after he was laid off by Chrysler. He returned to Michigan in 1984, when Chrysler was hiring again.

He has been retired since the end of 2007 from a job as an inspector at a Chrysler plant in the Detroit suburb of Sterling Heights. "This time I knew what signs to look for and I could see what was coming, so I knew it was time to get out," he said.

But now his wife has lost her job and money is tight for the couple and their two young sons. A local job search was fruitless.

"This downturn is so much worse, there's no work for people here," he added. "But I need to have some money in my pocket."

So Gains and his family will move to Houston in the next few weeks, having already found a place to live there. He has applied for jobs at gas stations and supermarkets, while his wife has a promising lead for an office job.

As for the family's condominium, which he hasn't been able to sell, Gains is planning to walk away from it. "I don't see how I have much choice if I want to work."

JASON HARPER, Princeton graduate

Jason Harper, 22, graduated from Princeton University this year, and has worked for the Weinstein Company, including time on Woody Allen's "Vicky Cristina Barcelona." One of his short films was picked up by MTV.

Despite his qualifications, he cannot find a job in advertising. "They are just not hiring. There are hiring freezes everywhere."

With his qualifications and experience, he thought getting a job would be much easier than it turned out. Despondent, he even tried to get intern positions, but that has not worked either. "The responses that I get back are not that I am under-qualified but on the contrary that I am over qualified.

<p>Jason Harper, 22, who graduated from Princeton University this year, poses in Chicago, July 25, 2009. Harper, who has numerous qualifications, cannot find a job in advertising. "They are just not hiring. There are hiring freezes everywhere," he said.John Gress</p>

Like some of his friends, he is now looking abroad and getting more positive responses in Berlin, where he worked when he studied abroad during his junior year. "Much as I want to work in LA, or work in New York, or Chicago, its just shut door after shut door."

Having made a video when he was working in Berlin that was top viewed on YouTube in Germany for several days, he is also thinking about setting up in business on his own. (here)

"There has been a flattening of the industry with YouTube and viral media capabilities," he said. "So, I'm beginning to question whether I even need an advertising agency." With student loans and debts of around $50,000, the problem is finding a way to monetize it.

"We're at sort of an interregnum right now in society where the old structure, industry ways are broken but the new ones are still feral and are very underdeveloped."

CHRISTIAN AGUILAR, construction worker

In the boom years, Mexican illegal immigrant Christian Aguilar thrived decorating homes in new subdivisions across the sprawling Phoenix valley.

"I was never without work. I earned enough to live, pay the rent and the bills, and even save a little," said Aguilar, 19, who is from the troubled border city of Ciudad Juarez, south of El Paso, Texas.

But when the economy slid deeper into recession last year, he and his gang of decorators started to have their hours cut, and then they were gradually let go.

"They laid me off for two weeks, then that stretched out to a month, now I haven't worked since last August," said Aguilar, who earned $12 an hour under the table.

Almost 12 million undocumented immigrants live and work in the United States, many like Aguilar in low-skilled jobs that have evaporated in the recession.

He now touts for work at a day labor center in Phoenix -- a fallback for many undocumented migrants -- and counts himself lucky if he's hired one or two days a week.

"The most difficult thing is that you are worrying that you will be turned out of your house if you can't pay the rent," said Aguilar, who lives with his parents.

With the economy still in decline, he and his family are thinking of leaving Arizona to try and find work elsewhere in the United States.

"If we leave, it will be for another state like Colorado, New Mexico or Utah, but not Mexico," he said.

"Where I come from, they're going through a very difficult time at the moment, with violence and drug trafficking."

Reporting by Nick Carey in Detroit, Wendell Marsh in Washington and Tim Gaynor in Phoenix; Editing by Eddie Evans

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