Today, three months later, Connie Schlim is collecting $260 a week in unemployment benefits and looking for work to replace the $12.50-an-hour job she had changing parts on a milling machine. But like many victims of this recession, Schlim says she feels trapped because there are no other jobs available nearby and no new employers coming to Philip. Other than the local hospital, Scotchman is the largest employer in Philip, with 72 people after the cutbacks. The Schlims are resigned to stay in Philip but say they will cut back on expenses.
“Our golden years won’t be as golden as we had planned on,” said Schlim, who has two grown daughters [Stephen C. Fehr, "Tracking the Recession: How Layoffs Affect One Small Town", Stateline.org, 2009.03.23].
Pick your perspective: Fehr notes that the week Scotchman laid off Schlim and 11 co-workers, major U.S. companies like Dow Chemical and Home Depot cut 80,000 jobs. But in Philip, 12 jobs equal 3% of the workforce. A loss like that in Sioux Falls would be 4,000 jobs.
Fehr also notes that Schlim's $12.50 an hour counts as a "high-wage" job. If that's full-time work 52 weeks a year, that's $26,000.
One bit of blogospheric bloviation: I heard some talk on MPR this morning about the need for more "shared sacrifice." Small-town working folks, even those still hanging on to their $12.50-an-hour jobs, are already making sacrifices. Fehr notes the remaining employees at Scotchman have offered to cut their hours to save their neighbors' jobs. The big bankers who think they have to keep paying million-dollar bonuses to retain "talent" should take notes from Philip, South Dakota.