Profiles in unemployment: The auto worker

August 2, 2009

As part of a Reuters series on long-term unemployment, reporters spoke with those who are struggling to find work. For other profiles click here and here.

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 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 it. “I don’t see how I have much choice if I want to work.

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