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Jobs In Focus: A Sign of the Times

Aired May 15, 2010 - 14:00   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Fredricka Whitfield in Atlanta.

About 30 minutes from now we'll be getting an update on how crews are tackling that oil spill in the Gulf. U.S. coast guard and BP officials will be explaining their latest tactics, including what they are trying today, inserting a tube into the ruptured pipeline to siphon the oil out. Another option is to place a containment dome over the leak.

BP says about 210,000 gallons of oil are spilling every day. But a researcher at Purdue University believes it's much more than that.


STEPHEN WERELY, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, PURDUE UNIVERSITY: Well, I've seen the description of BP's number and their methodology isn't clear, so I can't really say one way or the other that their number is wrong.

What I can say, you know, one thing that I can say for sure is that I'm looking at a snapshot in time, this 30-second snapshot of this video that they posted, and during that 30-second time period, I see a flow rate of 70,000 barrels a day, plus or minus 14. So it could be as low as 56 or as high as 84.

But I'm quite confident -- I've been doing this for almost 20 years and I'm quite confident that my number, the correct number is in that range.


WHITFIELD: Crews are also using chemical dispersants underwater at the source of the leak to minimize the damage.

And if you're heading to England or Germany over the next few days, keep checking with your airline. Aviation authorities in both countries say that still erupting volcano in Iceland could cause new travel trouble, even grounding some flights as early as tomorrow. It all depends on what the ash cloud does next.

A few technical difficulties for NASA. It seems the camera aboard the shuttle Atlantis is not working right, and that's keeping astronauts from getting a good look at the spaceship after yesterday's launch. The agency is also monitoring space junk moving close to the International Space Station. Neither issue is expected to affect tomorrow's scheduled docking, however.

Coming up, about 30 minutes from now, 2:30 eastern time, there will be a press conference, a briefing, involving the U.S. coast guard, possibly BP and other officials on that huge leak in the Gulf of Mexico.

And then you still want to stick around for 3:00 eastern time. All that viral video that Josh Levs introduces us to. This weekend there's new stuff that you apparently can't get enough of.

And at 4:00 eastern time, we are going to the movies. We'll have a movie critic with us in that hour.

Meantime, we want you to stay tuned for a CNN special presentation all about people finding new opportunities in this economic climate. Our photojournalists have been going to cities all over the country to spotlight their successes and struggles. "Jobs in Focus, a Sign of the Times," begins right now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The last job I had was pumping out port-o- potties. I've got two little girls. I'll do everything I got to do to keep a roof over their heads.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You got to do what you have to, especially in this economy, to be able to put the food on the table, keep the roof over the head.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Welcome to "A Sign of the Times -- Jobs in Focus." I'm Tom Foreman. We turned our attention to jobs because that's where so many of you have placed your concern these days, and with good reason. Unemployment has been quite high for quite some time, making many of us uneasy about the security of our homes and our friends and families.

So the excellent photojournalists here at CNN have turned their cameras and microphones on you and asked you to tell us stories of how you're coping, how you're getting by, and remaining hopeful.

And we start out on the west coast, where the hard times have pushed some people out into the streets, not exactly homeless, but not really in homes as you might think. Photojournalist John Torigoe brings us the tale of the urban campers.

STEVE HOPKINS, LIVES IN HIPPIE BUS: If I lived anywhere in L.A., I would want to live in Venice just because I love the water, I love the beach. I wouldn't live anywhere else.

My name is Steve Hopkins. Welcome, come on inside. It's a 1975 crown decommissioned school bus. I've been living in a bus for just over two years now. This is my home. I live on the streets of Venice, California.

I take it to different festivals, events. It's powered by recycled veggie oil. I didn't grow up wanting to live in a hippie bus. There's no keys, actually. All you have to do is push a button, and it starts right away.

At the time, I couldn't afford it. Soon afterwards, I did get a pretty decent job. I worked tech support for graveyard. It's great when you have absolutely no bills, no debts.

I don't need a lot. This is what I have. I could actually afford my own apartment but I just refuse to do it. I guess you could say I'm almost homeless. But this is a lifestyle that I choose.

When the economy actually did implode, I was fortunate, you know, because I had already adapted to this lifestyle so it really never affected me as much as it did to other people.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My name is Terry Hendrickson. We've been in this situation since 2006, when we lost the apartment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She lives with her son, who lives in an RV.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm Brandon Mahoney, 16 years old, an inhabitant of an RV. I would much rather have a house and be able to take showers when I wake up in the morning and have electricity.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not working right now. I have a Social Security check. One of the important things to me is education, especially during recession we have now, because when the recession's over, you never know what job you might like to take.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were hit hard, and it's sad. They have seen other people that have been laid off. It's not a pretty scene. You have ten RVs and they're really old, usually from the '60s, '70s, all beat up. They have things all over them, attached to them, tied to them. All their belongings are on the sidewalk. It's not a pretty sight.

We are what Venice is. There's all walks of life here in Venice. And who wouldn't want to live in Venice?

FOREMAN: Life on the road has often been seen as an alternative when work dries up closer to home. Trucking, of course, however, can be a very difficult, time-consuming, demanding job. Still, up in Rhode Island, one training school is taking in plenty of people who are hoping to find the road to prosperity on 18 wheels.

Photojournalist Bob Crowley takes us there.

DAVE SCHNEIDER, TRUCK-DRIVING STUDENT: New England tractor trailer training trains for class A and B CDL licenses. It looks easy but believe me, the first time I did it, it wasn't.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Watch that left mirror.

SCHNEIDER: I got laid off from a job I had worked at for 12 years. That was two and a half years ago. I have been out of work since. I had the opportunity to come to school, get my CDL for a class A tractor driving, and this is where I'm at. MARK GREENBERG, NETTTS PRESIDENT: We have been seeing people coming from a lot of different industries and obviously, making that big transition to something completely different as an adult is difficult.

Getting in a tractor trailer for the first time was a little scary. It might have a little jump when you first take off. I just had to be retrained on something else. The market I was in, they don't want older guys. It's all about the cones and the linemen. I've been out of work since November. I'm not collecting. I'm living off of my savings.

Am in? I feel pretty comfortable that I should be able to get a fairly decent job and support my family and my house and not lose my house.

BERNIE COSTA, TRUCK-DRIVING STUDENT: It's a job that's always going to be there. Everything that goes out on the road needs a truck to bring it to grocery stores, pick up from warehouses. It's all got to go in a truck.

The job I was working at for 12 years for me was a career job. I expected to stay there for my entire life, retire from the company. You got to do what you have to, especially in this economy, to be able to put the food on the table, keep the roof over the head.

FOREMAN: When we come back, it's a dirty job, but someone's got to do it. And he's just the one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am applying to two to three places a week, leaving applications. Everybody's like we'll give you a call, something comes up.

FOREMAN: Hitting it long and strong every day. And the sweet taste of success -- cupcakes, community and cash, when "Jobs in Focus" continues.




FOREMAN: The emotional impact of losing a job can be simply enormous. People feel as if they've let their families down, they can lose confidence, they can become depressed, and sometimes, even the strongest need encouragement.

And some people are simply great at providing that, such as the Maryland man you are about to meet through the lens of photojournalist Oliver Janney.

JOSE TORRES REYES, WORKSHOP FACILITATOR: My wife is active duty Air Force. Every two to three years, we've had to move to our next assignment, and I find great jobs, but I have to leave them, and so I have to reinvent myself constantly. We are at the Columbia work force center in Columbia, Maryland. They teach professionals how to compete on a professional level with their peers.

Good morning.

My name's Jose. I hope each one of you is wearing a name tag so we can refer to each other by our first name.

I train unemployed individuals the best way to find job and all the skills that they thee need to develop and work on in order to find the kind of work they're really looking for.

What is the value of this bill? This is a $20 bill, right? I can devalue this bill.

A lot of them are angry from losing their job.

What is the value now? It's still $20. What I want to tell you is that this bill is you. You are not devalued. No matter what happened to you, you are still the same person with the same values, the same dedication to your job, with the same sense of I want to do the right thing.

What happens if the range is from $40,000 to $80,000, just think of which part of that range your resume can support? If people don't know you're out of a job, can they help you?

Fulfilling doesn't begin to describe it. The reason you see a smile on my face, the reason you saw me smile the whole time I was teaching, the reason I'm able to interject my personality is because it's not -- it's not just a job. It's about the satisfaction that you get in really honestly helping other people.

FOREMAN: One man who has taken that class is the subject of our next story. He is an out-of-work trucker who's not only taken to heart the notion that you can never give up, but who is also growing stronger every day that he wrestles with this tough economy, taking on a job he never expected just outside of Washington, D.C. That's where photojournalist John Benna caught up with him.

JOHN JARRELL, UNEMPLOYED: I get a little exercise, trying to stay fit as I can. Enjoy it. The simple fact not many other people do it. This is heavy stuff. It's a lot of work. You never know when life's going to throw a physical challenge at you and you need to be prepared.

When I can't find a job, I come home aggravated with that and I get on these and start all over again the next day.

I was driving a truck before I had a license. I've been in construction, demolition, running equipment. Last job I had was pumping out port-o-potties. I didn't like that at all.

I'm the single father of two little girls. I'll do anything I have to do to keep a roof over their head. So I clean those potties to where my daughter will use them.

LEXUS JARRELL, JOHN'S DAUGHTER: You liked it because it's another thing that he could check off his list.

JARRELL: Pop the door open, bucket, bleach, water.

LEXUS JARRELL: He would always come home and tell me the weird things he found in them.

JARRELL: Scrub it down, scrub it down. Every day was an adventure. You lift the lid. When you open that door, you never know what you're going to get. Fire the pump up. That's when everybody runs away. Roll on to the next one.

I've always had a job. This is my first time with this. I guess it's the classic case that's not going to happen to me. Well, here I am.

REYES: In today's market, I'm not going to take any risks.

JARRELL: Unemployment sent me a letter, said this is a mandatory class. Walking in, I didn't know what to expect. Very informative, a lot of good advice. I met a lot of people from all different facets of work. Everything they're teaching us was just tools that you can use if you want. And I found a lot of them to be valuable.

There's a public library up the street. I've never had any training on a computer so she's my little teacher. She's learned it all in school. We'll go up there and there's one right next to each other so that's how we do it. That way, I don't have to yell, freak out.

I'm applying at two or three places a week, leaving applications. Everybody's like, well, we'll give you a call if something comes up. Bad as it is, it could be a lot worse.

LEXUS JARRELL: I wish that he could find a job that he enjoys and was like all right, I'm going to work, you know, and be happy about it.

JARRELL: I see the future as being bright. I'm not going to be on this forever because I know something's going to happen better. Something's coming my way. I just have to believe in that.

It's a good morning. That is a good morning.

FOREMAN: In a moment, putting frosting on that recession and getting your just desserts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Seems like we're continually putting more on the truck.

FOREMAN: And smiling through the hard times while juggling a part-time job and full-time responsibilities. Stay with us.



FOREMAN: With unemployment just barely below 10 percent, public confidence in the economy remains weak. For example, a recent CNN opinion research corporation poll found that just under 50 percent of you think the economy has stabilized, around 34 percent think it's still in a downturn, and only 19 percent think it's beginning to recover.

Under those circumstances, you can understand why many people would be fearful about giving up a job, but here in the D.C. area, some people have decided to meet that bitter economic news with something sweet, and it's really paying off. Photojournalist Dave Ruff takes us there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Anyone loves cupcakes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm in the middle of class right now. I came with one of my students.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's the middle of the day. Whether you're having a good or bad day --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is my first curbside cupcake, red velvet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You get to kind of feel like you're 10 again. I'm Sam Whitfield, co-owner of Curbside Cupcakes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sam was working at a law firm. He's a lawyer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just classic chocolate, please.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was sitting in a law firm, working with co- workers, and we all wanted cupcakes, but nobody wanted to get in their car and drive across town.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And he just had the brainstorm, he said cup cakes should come to us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sharing cupcake love. There you go.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm Kristi Cunningham. I'm one of the owners of Curbside Cupcakes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We thought it was a good idea. We just didn't realize how great of an idea it was until we actually started it. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We don't want to look over our shoulders and have someone else have done it and think what if we had tried that. We said let's just go for it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm updating the Facebook and Twitter to let the next stop, Franklin Square, know I'm on my way.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He did not do any of the more traditional marketing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We just got out here, I've been waiting all day for the update on Facebook.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We trusted the market, and the Facebook and social media help us stay in conversation with the market.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We left perfectly good jobs. He left his perfectly good job first, and then I left my perfectly good job later.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is my first time trying it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When we started, we had about 300 cupcakes on the truck. Today, there are almost 1,300 cupcakes on the truck. We become cupcake experts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I delivered cupcakes to the people, four stops a day, Monday through Friday.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sam is quick. He's really fast.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Peanut butter cups, dark chocolate, and classic chocolate. There you go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm more stressed, I'm a lot more tired, but I am definitely happier. Usually when my clients saw me they were getting sued. The clients I have now are all happy. Cupcakes are here to stay.

FOREMAN: Stay put. "Jobs in Focus will be right back with a true believer in hard work, good times, and making the world a happier place when hard times come to call.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trying to raise a family as a clown has proved to be a new challenge for me.




FOREMAN: The Big Apple Circus entertains countless people every year, but performing really is hard work, even if it just looks like clowning around. Often these people have to pursue their art as a part-time job while finding other ways to make ends meet. And yet so many of them find ways to keep sharing and sharing, despite all of that. Such is the case of one man up in the big apple, New York, and we meet him through the lens of photojournalist Effie Nidom.

WATSON KAWECKI, BIG APPLE CIRCUS, CLOWN CARE: My character in the hospital looks like a doctor, almost, from the back. Here I am, Dr. Doodle-do. But you turn around and there's the nose and the shoes and the attitude.

My name is Watson Kawecki, and I'm a professional clown. Three days a week, Big Apple Circus brings clowns into the hospital. We dress up in a clown outfit and doctor coat, and we go on pediatric rounds, seeing kids wherever they might be. Then we try to make that kid feel as good as possible as quickly as we can.

My work at the hospital is part-time and I have had to find over the years a lot of different opportunities in order to be able to live comfortably or support my family.

This is my partner, Christine, and our son, Owen Samuel Danger.

Being a clown is not an easy career path to have. There are some sacrifices I have to experience. We don't get vacation time. We don't get retirement, investment from any of the companies that I work with. So it can be a risky way to earn a living.

I'm here today on a Sunday, it's not my regular job. They have a kite festival today. Special events come up from time to time, and because my job is part-time, I have to pursue a lot of opportunities like this in order to stitch together a schedule that can earn enough money to make a living.

These are custom-made shoes. This pair is 16 years old, cost $300 at the time. I should probably polish these shoes more often than I do, or take them into the shop. When times are tough, you do less to maintain your equipment. But I feel like it's absolutely worthwhile. I love it. And that's its own reward.

FOREMAN: And with that, our shift is done. We hope that your work, if you have it, or your hunt for work if you don't goes well this week.

If you want to know more about the "In Focus" series, go to Facebook and become a fan. On behalf of all the excellent photojournalists at CNN who work hard every week to bring you the news, I'm Tom Foreman. Thanks for watching.