Wisconsin workers: loss and gain

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WAUSAU, Wis. (WAOW) — 2019 is a confusing year for workers in Central Wisconsin. Mass layoffs across the state and a record-low unemployment rate of 2.8% seem like a match made in heaven, but Wisconsin workers say the situation is far from perfect.

Patrick Helton was recently laid off by an area manufacturer and he said the journey to a new job has been difficult. “I’ve learned that what doesn’t break you makes you stronger,” said Helton. He echos the optimistic narrative of a newly unemployed worker in Wisconsin.

With layoffs across the state hurting large and small companies, from Shopkos across Wisconsin to Figi’s in Marshfield.

Scott Larson, Executive Director of the Marshfield Area Chamber of Commerce & Industry (MACCI), said, “You hate to hear of any stores close here because that impacts families and it obviously impacts those families directly.”

But don’t get it wrong; Larson said the closings are still having a positive impact. “This has actually presented an opportunity for the employees of those closing stores and for our existing businesses to tap into a new source of employees,” said Larson.

Since Figi’s layoffs in January, MACCI has held two job fairs, putting a total of 2,500 jobs back on the table.

“You’re job prospects are quite good, particularly here in central Wisconsin,” said Larson. While the prospects are there, so are the layoffs.

Patrick Helton said being laid off made him feel like his world was crushed. “Maybe it is a miracle in disguise… But in the meantime, I suffer.”

Helton said he’s feeling hopeless, without a job or an income to support his daughter, Addison. He said she suffers from Apparent Life-Threatening Event (ALTE). “I’ve had to perform C.P.R. on her twice,” said Helton. According to Helton, she’s prone to frequent hospital visits, which only add to the stress.

“She woke up one time and came in and hugged me because I was crying in the middle of the night,” said Helton. “She heard me and she says dad it’s gonna be all right. I wish it was that easy to say you’re the right baby, you’re right, you’re absolutely right. But in the back of your mind, you’re like what am I gonna do?”

That’s a question that he is working to answer. He’s applied to a new job that he said could double his old salary, and now he is waiting to hear back. He said the staffing agency tells him his chances are good.

Tom Lally

Tom Lally

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