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Even those in surefire fields struggled in recession
Isabella Palomino bags purchases at the checkout lane of the Goodwill Store in Oakwood. Stores like Goodwill do well despite a recession. - photo by Tom Reed

Is any industry truly recession-proof?

Even those who deal in life and death — the sure things in society, regardless of the economic climate — have struggled in the past five years of what economists have called the “Great Recession.”

The health care field “is probably one of those that’s more protected because there is always a need for health care,” said Lee Alexander, manager of workforce planning and employment for the Northeast Georgia Health System, based in Gainesville.

“But what we’re seeing is more and more people are realizing that, too.”

People have returned to school to get training in health care and that’s created a glut in the job marketplace.

“Our application rate has doubled, if not tripled, in the past year,” Alexander said.

“We are finding it’s harder and harder to place those folks, because there are experienced people out there looking for jobs — people who are coming from other hospitals and physician offices.”

Many physician offices “have really been impacted by health care reform, so they’re either joining forces with larger health care facilities or going out of business altogether.”

Silva Wilson of Buford is one of those who considered health care when she got laid off from her job in production/assembly.

She went back to school in South Carolina to get training to become a phlebotomist, a person who withdraws blood from patients by opening a vein by incision or puncture.

That hasn’t worked out so far for Wilson, either.

“I’ve been looking for a job and everybody wants experience, and when you’re first getting out of school, you don’t have experience,” she said.

And then there’s Kirk Barrett, a managing partner, along with Ben Mason, at Little-Davenport Funeral Home in Gainesville.

“People are not spending the money to take care of their loved ones that we’ve typically seen in the past,” he said.
Cremations are replacing traditional funerals, Barrett said.

“That’s what people are marketing,” he said.

“We see people who ... spent (a certain) amount on one parent and 10 years later are spending a lot less on the second parent because they just don’t see the (economic) value in it.”

Government work, particularly teaching, used to be considered one of the most protected and secure fields for workers.

But that perception has been shattered in the past five years, as lowering property values have translated to shrinking tax digests, which governments lean on to a calculate a major revenue source, property taxes.

As a result, thousands of workers have been laid off statewide and those who have held onto jobs have faced unpaid leave days, or furloughs.

Some industries haven’t suffered as much during the bad times and perhaps have thrived, such as grocers and discount stores. Thrift stores have sprung up throughout the region, giving people a low-cost option for basic necessities, such as clothes.

“Since the recession, we’ve been on a growth pattern, not necessarily due to more people but because we had planned growth,” said Elaine Armstrong, spokeswoman for Goodwill of North Georgia, which has a store, donation drop-off area and career center in Oakwood.

“We have a strategic plan that will take us through 2014.”

Still, “there’s a lot more conversation and buzz around shopping for and buying used goods as opposed to new. In that regard, there are a lot of people who, over the past five years, discovered or rediscovered Goodwill.”