Workin’ 9 to 5… and 6 to 10 and 11 to 4

REGION – It's official. The economic downturn has worked its way from Wall Street warnings and into the lives of northwest lower Michigan residents. Most locals now have neighbors, friends, or family affected by foreclosure, bankruptcy, unemployment, or all three. Yet while Michigan grapples with unemployment at 10.6 percent, and the International Labor Organization (ILO) predicts a loss of 20 million jobs by the end of 2009, many are able to secure second – and in some cases third – jobs.

"It is definitely not as easy as it once was to get by," observes Traverse City resident Alicia Sammons, a server at Ruby Tuesday who recently picked up another server position at Freshwater Lodge.

"When people don't eat out as much, we are directly affected," she says. Sammons also sees suffering closer to home. As long as she can remember, her mom worked as a secretary at her dad's plumbing and heating business. "For the first time ever, my mom said she's going to be looking for a second job because people just aren't paying their plumbing and heating bills on time like they used to. It's kind of unsettling," Sammons says.

In a survey of 1,400 workers by the staffing firm Express Employment Professionals, 42 percent said they were looking for a second job to make ends meet. Kerry Lautner is a waitress at a local restaurant but recently picked up another job as a bartender at the Kalkaska VHW hall.

"Things are just piling up between gas money and car repairs and my dad's surgery. Every little bit helps," she says." Lautner does, however, have a master plan to increase her earning potential and ideally get out of the double job scenario: "Most importantly, I got the other job because I am going back to college."

She is not alone. According to a recently released survey by the recruiting industry's Fordyce Letter, about 26 percent of workers plan to go back to school to obtain a degree, certification, or other training. The survey, which traces emerging trends in the workforce, also underscores the multiple job movement showing that 25 percent of workers are considering a second job, while 9 percent have taken on a second job in 2008 in order to make ends meet.

A less scientific gauge of local economy comes from realtor Bob Murray of Kalkaska. Murray pointed out that he sold 51 houses last year; 49 of them were bank repossessions. "It's the worst of the worst and you feel like you have your head in a noose," he said regarding the economic state of affairs. "I've honestly never worked so hard in my life for so little in return."

Traverse City resident Ian McKinley sings a similar tune. "I don't even want to watch the news anymore, " he says. McKinley who – after having his hours cut back significantly by FedEx – is making up the difference by cleaning houses. "On the bright side, as we are all seeking other employment, we are expanding our contacts. When this is all over, we will be very well connected and, ideally, well on our way to financial health."

Barbara Murray has tapped into an emerging market resulting from the housing crash. While Murray has consistently managed her rental properties for years (a mix of houses and apartment buildings), she recently launched her own company, Northwest Rentals LLC, and is running rentals for other owners who can't sell and are forced to rent.

"Well, we had to step it up a bit! No question about it!" she says. "My husband is a realtor and I can safely say that people are very afraid to buy right now. When they do buy, they want a deal. And foreclosures are typically very, very complicated deals."

The couple has definitely witnessed many effects of the crisis including renegotiations of some of their current tenant agreements, as well as an increase in tenants losing jobs and moving out.

Parallels are being drawn between the current recession and the Great Depression (when more than 13 million people were looking for employment) leading people to wonder if history repeats itself. When asked that very same question, British author Julian Barnes once wrote, "Does history repeat itself, the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce? No…history just burps, and we taste it again like that raw-onion sandwich it swallowed centuries ago." BN