• Laid-off worker still struggling after finding work

    By: Greg Suskin


    LANCASTER, S.C. - As the national unemployment rate fell to 7.8 percent in September, some people in our area question what that really means.

    It's the lowest rate of joblessness in nearly four years, but for people like Condor Bowers of Heath Springs, it's just a number.

    "It doesn't make me feel much better at all, because it's not that way here," Bowers said.

    Bowers worked in textiles for Springs Industries for 40 years, and rose to a management level job. He was laid off in 2008 when the Grace plant in Lancaster County began shutting down.

    "I always had a job to go to every morning, then all of a sudden you don't have one, and you just feel lost," he said.

    After being out of work for more than eight months, he took a job with the department of transportation. On Friday, Channel 9 met him out on a rural country road near Kershaw, cleaning out storm water ditches.

    At 64, it's tough work, and it pays a fraction of what he once made.

    "You're coming back down to wages you were making in the 1960s, and you're living in 2012," Bowers said.

    He took the job because he needed it to get health insurance for himself and his wife. He brought home more money on unemployment and Social Security, but couldn't afford health insurance.

    In Lancaster County, the unemployment rate is 12.4 percent, far above the new national average. It's a county that's still adjusting after the loss of thousands of once-stable manufacturing jobs, like the one Bowers held for most of his life.

    He looks at Friday's better job numbers as figures that don't tell the whole story.

    "The economy's not that good around here. Maybe somewhere, but not here," he said.

    As gas prices and food prices remain high, the recovery is not one that everyone can feel in their wallet.

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