Wilmington, Ohio's Long Recession

60 Minutes Revisits A Town Hit Hard By The Recession; Have Things Improved Nearly A Year Since Our First Report?

This week marks the third Christmas of the Great Recession. The decline that began in December 2007 has destroyed more than seven million jobs. But that's just the half of it: millions more have had their hours cut to part time or have just quit looking for work. Altogether, that comes to 17 percent of the workforce.

There are pockets of severe unemployment all across the country in places like Wilmington, Ohio. 60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley first reported about Wilmington this time last year, when its major employer was closing.

Full Segment: The Long Recession
Web Extra: Still Helping Others
Web Extra: "We Need A Hand Up
Web Extra: What Happens Next
January 2009: Portraits of Hardship

It's exactly the kind of town that Washington hoped to rescue with stimulus spending, cash for clunkers and mortgage relief. But when 60 Minutes returned last week, we got an idea of what it's going to take to bring the country back from the long recession.

In Wilmington, two days ago, 59 homes went to the auction block. The struggle to make the mortgage or work things out at the bank ended in foreclosure.

Jim Curtis' home was auctioned on Friday. It went into foreclosure after his payments doubled, and then he lost his job. Curtis moved his wife and boys out well before the auction to get it over with.

Asked what he thought when get received the foreclosure notice, Curtis told Pelley, "I let me my family down…I've always been kind of taught to stand on my own two feet and that I've responsible for taking care of 'em, and it's tough on us."

Curtis built a career, 24 years, at Airborne Express, later bought by DHL. The courier's national hub was Wilmington's old air base, what they now call the Airpark. Curtis managed more than 100 people in the hazardous materials department.

But when DHL Express closed its domestic delivery service, 10,000 people lost their jobs. When we visited last December, DHL was counseling workers on unemployment and retraining. And like many, Lora Walker was scared.

"To me it was like being on the Titanic. It's not only filling with water, we're goin' down," she said during one of the counseling sessions.

Since then, she grabbed every lifeline. In the past year, she improvised jobs and went to classes in medical records management, a new field where she might find work.

There were new text books to buy, an oven to fix for a side business baking cakes, and a job at a farm supply for which she's paid in bales of hay.

The hay is for horses she still has from the days when her late husband raised them on the farm she's struggling to keep. She had to put two down recently. They were old and sick and she couldn't afford to care for them anymore.

"You look out into the field and think, 'Who can I euthanize?' And you start with the older ones and you go from there," she explained.

With bartering, baking, and unemployment she and daughter Allison live on one quarter of her former paycheck.

"This is another notice that they're gonna turn my electric off," she told Pelley. "I can't go without car insurance. I can't go without my life insurance. I don't have health insurance because I can't afford it."

She has life insurance but no health insurance.

Asked why that is, she explained, "I'm more concerned about Allison having a roof over her head than I am about me."

"You're more concerned about your daughter's future than your own health?" Pelley asked.

"Sure. 'Cause I'm not gonna leave her. You know, after my husband died, it hit you like a ton of bricks. You know, I'm a single parent. And she was 13. And if anything happens to me, what's gonna happen to her?" Walker asked.

People started asking that kind of question last Christmas. They bought presents on severance pay then. But this holiday is different. The pawnshop has filled up with anything and everything a family can sell.

With Christmas 2009, Wilmington and many places in the country are facing something new in unemployment.

It's one of the unique things about the Great Recession - never before have so many people been out of work for the long term. At least, not since they've starting keeping records back in 1948.

Today, 40 percent of all of those who've lost their jobs have been out of work for six months or more.

There's a ripple effect that reaches all over town. Tax receipts are down, so the schools cut a million dollars from their budget. The hospital lost $7 million when many of those Airpark workers who once had insurance became charity cases.

  • CBSNews

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