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In Perspective: The Unemployment Problem

MACON COUNTY-- High unemployment is plaguing Macon County.
MACON COUNTY-- Macon County is tied for last place in the jobs race.
Both it, and Franklin County have a 12.7 percent unemployment rate- the highest in the state.
Decatur's unemployment rate is also 12.7, making it the eighth most unemployed metro area in the country.

Mark Jones describes himself as a general laborer, who just helps wherever he's needed.
He runs the dish room at the Good Samaritan Inn in Decatur. 

In the last year and a half, Jones lost his job and his unemployment benefits, but he kept his positive attitude.
"There's something bigger and better out there for me," he says.
He hasn't found it yet, but Jones says he's still looking.
He's been at the job search for a year and a half.
He says his company's contract with Caterpillar ended and he lost his job in September, 2012.
Jones says he doesn't have any hope of his job coming back. 

He was working full time making $12.73 an hour.
At Good Samaritan Inn he makes minimum wage, $8.25, and works part time.
"It's more humbling. But, it's rewarding because you're actually helping people out," he says.

Now it's Jones who needs some help. 
"I've been struggling here and there, but with God's help and mercy that's what's getting me through," he says. 

Over the years, the city of Decatur has gone through a slew of ups and downs. The Mayor admits, right now is a tough time for people in Decatur, but he also says right now the city is doing everything it can to bring in more jobs.

"Unfortunately I don't have a magic wand to do something for those people. We try to keep as much information and give as much information as we can and I tell you, every day we are looking to bring new businesses into this community. That is a top priority of this city council and city manager," says Mike McElroy. 

The city even hired a new person about four to five months ago whose job is to recruit businesses.  
But, Mayor McElroy says the city's economy depends on big companies like Caterpillar that have been hit hard by the economy.
He says when they're hurting, so is Decatur. 
"It's not something I'd wish on my worst enemy, as a mayor it's not fun. You try to keep the people up. These kinds of things happen and you want to get out of them sooner rather than later and that's what we're hoping for," McElroy says. 

Rev. Stacey Brohard runs the Good Samaritan Inn.
He knows the roller coaster well and can relate to the people he serves. .
"I really feel for them, because back in the 80's we had the same problem in town. We had a lot of factories closing, and I was caught up in that, so I know what it is to have to gain new skills in a changing environment for a job placement," he says. 

Brohard hopes his story might inspire others to change their future by changing their career. 
"If you're out of work, you need to be in school, or looking for work, and if the work isn't to be found, they need to retool themselves," Brohard says. 

 In May, Good Samaritan will roll out a new jobs program for its clients. 
It'll focus on building up people's culinary skills.
Jones is already enrolled. 
He's also taking online interior design classes and continues to look for a new job. 
He hopes someday soon, he'll find his match. 
"There's something out there for me, I know it," he says.

It's not just Caterpillar that dictates Decatur's economy.
In December, Archer Daniels Midland announced it's moving its global headquarters and up to 75 jobs out of Decatur and to Chicago.
Mayor McElroy says he's still happy that thousands of jobs will stay in Decatur.
He also says dredging the lake and having more water for businesses will be attractive for companies looking to move.
That project comes with a $90 million price-tag.

To see how your county is doing in the jobs race, check out these unemployment statistics. 

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