For jobless who find work, a struggle to keep it

David Reed and his wife are struggling to pay their bills. Reed, 62, has been laid off three times in the last three years, and for older workers, it's harder to find - and keep - work.

The news this week about jobs is not exactly good -- the best you can say is it's less bad. The government says 418,000 more Americans joined the line for unemployment benefits last week. That's 14,000 fewer than the week before.

For those fortunate enough to find a new job tells us, the next challenge is holding onto it, as CBS News correspondent Anthony Mason reports.

David Reed has more than 30 years experience as a salesman in the food industry, but now, working in a neighbor's back yard, he's literally shovelling mulch for gas money.

At home in Manassas, Va. the bills are piling up for Reed and his wife Susan. He lost his job last October and has been laid off three times in the past three years.

"Over the years I've done very well in the industry," he said, "and all of a sudden it's 'Let go, let go, let go,' and for me it's depressing."

Research shows workers who've been laid off once, if rehired, are more likely to be laid off again. Twenty-one percent, or 1 in 5 -- according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics -- face unemployment again within a year. That's because they're now low man on the totem pole, says economist Heidi Shierholz.

At one point, Reed was considering applying for an assistant manager's job at a fast food chain for $9 an hour. But he didn't get it.

"When you made the choice to go to a fast food restaurant to apply, what were saying to yourself?" Mason asked.

"'Ah, has it come to this?' Reed responded. "That's with no disrespect to the people that work there."

For older workers like Reed, 62, it typically takes longer to be rehired. His likelihood of finding another job within a year is just 18 percent, compared to 36 percent for 25-to-34-year-olds, according to the Urban Institute/U.S. Census.

With their four children now grown, Susan has gone back to work at a local wine and gift shop. She didn't expect to be the primary breadwinner. "Not on the income I make," said Susan.

But her $30,000 salary is all that's allowing them to hold onto their home.

Friends have also helped, sometimes anonymously. Reed opened his mailbox one time and found cash inside. "It was very emotional," he recalled. "Because I didn't know who did it. I didn't know who to thank."

Meanwhile, an email arrived for Reed that he read: "David, I may have an idea for you."

Now Reed is interviewing with a company.

"So that's encouraging," Mason said.

"It's very encouraging."

Hope for David Reed, at a time when hope can be hard to come by.

  • Anthony Mason

    CBS News senior business and economics correspondent; Co-host, "CBS This Morning: Saturday"