James Thorpe glides his hand over the latest employment opportunities stapled to the job postings board at Nevada JobConnect.
His finger finds one that matches his skill set as an air conditioning technician, but as it runs through each word it reaches the problem — 18, 20, 36, 60 months of experience wanted.
“I was only a tech four months before I got laid off,” he said. “They want more experienced technicians.”
Thorpe has been coming to Nevada JobConnect, 117 S. Water St., at least once a week since August.
He isn’t alone, as Nevada has 8.8 percent unemployment.
Since it is a smaller office, Andy Martinez, the center’s manager, said it sees hundreds of people in a week looking for work.
“It’s about 80 people a day,” Martinez said. “Sometimes it gets busier than that.”
It’s not just people out of work. Martinez deals with people who are underemployed or trying to survive off a minimum-wage job and can’t.
“We have people who were making $20 an hour and now make $10,” he said.
Whether they have faced discrimination from being older or an ex-felon or they’re just down on their luck, unable to find a position in their field, each person has a story as to what brought them to the center.
Robert Gonzales waits in line at 8 a.m. to check in at the front desk.
After seven years of work as a welder for TIMET, he was laid off.
“We kind of saw it coming,” he said.
That was in September.
He has thumbed through the newspaper, scoured online advertisements and sent out nearly 80 resumes in the last few months trying to find a job in a warehouse or a related field.
“I’m starting to lose hope,” he said. “I thought something would have turned up by now.”
On top of not finding a job, his unemployment benefits are slated to run out soon.
“That’s why I am here,” he said. “I need to figure out what my next step needs to be.”
Martinez said his office has seen more people since unemployment benefits were cut recently.
“There is a desperation,” he said.
After 13 years in prison, Richie Manning has been out two months and ready for a fresh start.
“I just want a second chance,” Manning said. “I was a bad guy. I’m not going to lie, I was a really bad guy. I was just a kid at the time. I’m ready to turn that around and be a good guy.”
Manning said prison didn’t offer any help transitioning back to society.
“It’s just a giant meat factory, but I might be biased,” he said. “It cycles you through. It doesn’t help you learn any trades or skills. It doesn’t offer any chances to help you reintegrate.”
However, he has joined HOPE For Prisoners, a nonprofit that helps ex-offenders reacclimate to life. The program is helping him with the job-seeking process.
“It seems like a good program,” he said. “I’m just starting it today.”
Another issue coming out of prison is his lack of experience.
“I had job experience before prison,” he said. “Employers only care about the last five years, though.”
He said he would have thought a place like Las Vegas would have had more job opportunities available considering the casino and hospitality industry.
Manning knows it’s rough for everyone seeking employment. He said others in his house who don’t have a prison record yet have job skills have also struggled with unemployment.
But even with the odds stacked against him, Manning is ready to try.
“I just want a job to pay my rent,” he said. “I will work a minimum-wage job.”
Despite best efforts not to leave her job of nine years, Sandra Kumpf said she couldn’t handle the mental abuse and intimidation she faced at work.
“It was hard to leave $17.50 an hour,” she said. “My husband was retiring, and we were barely making it, but I just couldn’t do it anymore.”
She has been job hunting for two months, looking for anything.
“I will dig ditches if I have to,” she said. “I was a farm girl, and I’m used to shoveling hay.”
Even with her willingness to take any job offer, she hasn’t receive many callbacks.
She sends out two or three applications every day.
“It might be as many as six,” she said. “It’s on the computer, and I’m never sure if they go through.”
Kumpf fears she is up against a younger generation of job seekers and believes she has faced age discrimination on her search.
“The two interviews I had didn’t go well,” she said. “I think they thought I was too close to the retirement age to hire. I can’t wear makeup because of an allergy, so it’s hard to hide my age.”
Thorpe thought he was being smart when he studied at Air Conditioning Technical Institute to get certified through its heating, ventilation and air conditioning program.
“It seemed like a good fit for Vegas,” he said. “It gets hot, and people need their AC. I was warned going into this that as it starts to get cooler, companies might start laying people off.”
But he landed a job.
Four months in, his truck was broken into at his house and his tools were stolen.
“It was a company truck,” he said. “They were worried that it would happen again since it was parked at my house.”
He said he was laid off as a result.
“I didn’t know I would be laid off for so long,” he said. “Everyone says to keep your head up, but it takes its toll, especially if one person in the house is working and you’re not. It takes its toll on your marriage.”
Like everyone else in line, Thorpe hopes this is the day his luck finally starts to turn.
Contact Henderson/Anthem View reporter Michael Lyle at email@example.com or 702-387-5201.