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Special Report |Unemployment

Hernando's many faces of unemployment

Clockwise from upper left: Ryan Hogeland of Spring Hill, Adrian Issac of Spring Hill, Sandra Ballard of Brooksville and John W. Smith of Spring Hill.


Clockwise from upper left: Ryan Hogeland of Spring Hill, Adrian Issac of Spring Hill, Sandra Ballard of Brooksville and John W. Smith of Spring Hill.


That's the number of people who were looking for work but couldn't find any in Hernando County during January.

The number represents a 7 percent unemployment rate — third-highest in Florida. Up from 6.6 percent in December.

While the county's dominant construction industry has been hit most noticeably by the economic slump, the jittery economy has affected people from all walks of life. And no relief seems to be in sight.

Here are some of the faces and stories of unemployment in Hernando.

• • •

Ryan Hogeland hasn't worked since Thanksgiving.

The 18-year construction veteran has looked as far away as Las Vegas for jobs like he used to have, building the frames of homes.

But everywhere it's the same — there are no jobs to be had in a dead housing market.

The same goes for the world of theater set design, which the 32-year-old studied in college in Daytona Beach. He hasn't built a set in about nine years, but figured it was one more skill on which he could try and capitalize.

While Hogeland has come across some work in Tampa and Clearwater, there's really no point in taking the jobs. Between tolls and gas for the commute, whatever he would make at $8 an hour would vanish.

"I've been on my own since I was 21," Hogeland said. "I've never had a problem finding work. That's why I stayed in the construction industry."

• • •

Adrian Issac just got married. But the economy has driven her to live states away from her husband.

The 20-year-old Central High School graduate is a certified pharmacy technician.

She left a job in Clearwater to move to Arkansas with her new husband, only to find that there weren't any jobs she could get.

"When we left, I didn't think it would be that hard to find something," she said.

"I even applied to fast-food restaurants, but no one was hiring."

She moved back home to Spring Hill, hoping that she might get her old job back.

But here, the same economy rules.

"I want to go to school and become a pharmacist," she said.

"But I can't because I don't have any money. I don't know what I'm supposed to do."

• • •

At 68, John Smith is a former IBM executive. With a master's degree in business and 35 years of experience in just about every facet of the corporate world, he never thought he'd find himself without a job.

But here he is, collecting unemployment for the first time in his life.

The Largo company he commuted to from his home in Spring Hill downsized a few weeks ago, eliminating his position as human resources director. After losing a chunk of his nest egg in the stock market, taking it easy as a retiree is not an option.

"It's humbling," he said of his recent job search.

He's been interviewed by people with a tenth of the experience he has, only to be told a few days later that he's not qualified for the job.

"When you're the person who can build a plane and fly one, too," Smith said, "and they say you're not qualified, it hurts. It really hurts."

• • •

For 12 years, Sandra Ballard has worked in construction. The Brooksville resident can do just about anything, from minor plumbing to putting in floors and ceilings.

The variety of work, the people, working with her hands — she loves all aspects of the job.

But she recently had to file for unemployment when her hours dwindled to as few as three in a three-week time span. The housing market crash has left little work.

What's more, at 50, she said she's getting tired of not knowing what's next. Job security is more important than ever, especially because of her 8-year-old daughter, Diana. Ballard shares custody of the girl with her husband, from whom she's separated.

"Now that I don't have work, I get her more often," she said. "And that's good. But if I don't have any money to have food in the house, then I can't have her."

• • •

Sean Hooker always thought he'd have a job in construction.

He grew up in the business, and from the age of 10 has learned it inside and out. But the housing slump has left him without work for the past eight months.

Since then, the 27-year-old has had to move back in with his mother. He stopped driving his truck because gas costs too much. Now he rides his motorcycle on job searches.

He's dropped off application after application at places like Home Depot, Lowe's, 7-Eleven, Circle K and Big Lots. But no one seems to be hiring.

"I can do just about anything on a job," Hooker said. "From start to finish, I can do the surveying, clear the land, put pipe in the ground, finish roadways, everything. I put my time in. I don't know what else to do but put out applications."

• • •

Debra Connelly has worked in the medical field for 13 years. Most recently, she was a lab technician in Spring Hill.

The 46-year-old said she was the kind of employee who came in early, stayed late and went to jobs fairs to represent her last employer.

But then she slipped and fell in her kitchen. The accident left her with a broken knee cap and, eventually, out of a job.

Since the beginning of this month, she's been sending out applications in hopes of finding work. But so far, the search hasn't gone well.

"Even though the medical field is a good one to be in, that's not the case in Hernando County," Connelly said. "I can interview, but there are other people who are more qualified. And there aren't many opportunities to begin with."

There's help if you need it

Need help finding a job? Trying to figure out how to pay the bills? Want to make a career change, but don't know where to start? Here are some agencies that can help:

The Hernando County Health and Human Services Department can help with job, financial, food and housing assistance. The department can also refer those who qualify to the Hernando Health Department for medical services. The office is at the Hernando County Government Center, 20 N Main St, Brooksville. Call 540-4338, or go to its Web site at for more information and links to other local agencies.

2-1-1 Tampa Bay Cares is a free, anonymous, confidential referral service provided by the United Way of Hernando County. It can be reached by calling 211 from any phone inside Hernando County or by calling toll-free 1-800-790-7770. Its Web site is Among the services it can help provide: a place to stay, food, clothing, financial assistance and someone to talk to.

Career Central provides support for those in search of employment and training. The agency connects employers with job seekers. Located at 7361 Forest Oaks Blvd., Spring Hill. Call 200-3020 or go to its Web site at

Pasco-Hernando Community College offers day, evening, weekend and online classes with two Hernando locations — in Brooksville and Spring Hill. PHCC is a public-supported state institution, with fees generally lower than many other colleges and universities. Go to the Web site or call toll-free 877-TRY-PHCC.

Able Body Labor is a temporary staffing firm that matches residents with local employment opportunities. Its office is at 969 W Jefferson St., Brooksville. Call 754-3048 or go to

Labor Finders specializes in finding qualified temporary workers for industrial, commercial and construction projects. Located at 722 W Jefferson St., in Brooksville. Call 797-9001 or go to the Web site

Labor Ready dispatches temporary employees to jobs in construction, housing, manufacturing, hospitality services, landscaping and warehousing. Located at 691 S Broad St., Brooksville. Call 799-1516 or go to

The Salvation Army of Hernando County is at 15464 Cortez Blvd., west of Brooksville, and offers a variety of services to those in need. Call (352) 796-1186.

Love Your Neighbor holds dinners for anyone who is hungry from 4 to 6 p.m. every Sunday. The dinners are at the American Legion, 208 E Fort Dade Ave., Brooksville. The nonprofit organization also works to assist those in need. For information, call 428-9434.

Effect on building

Single-family home permits issued in Hernando County

2005 2006 2007
4,185 2,787 807

Out of work in Florida

Here are the 10 counties that had the highest unemployment rates in Florida during January. The statewide average for the month was 4.7 percent. The U.S. rate was 5.4 percent.

County Unemployed
1. Flagler 7.8 %
2. Hendry 7.2%
3. Hernando 7.0%
4. Charlotte 6.8%
5. St. Lucie 6.5%
6. Citrus 6.3%
7. Lee 6.3%
8. Indian River 6.2%
9. Madison 6.0%
10. Pasco 5.8%

Sources: Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation, Labor Market Statistics Center, Local Area Unemployment Statistics Program, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics

Hernando's many faces of unemployment 03/15/08 [Last modified: Friday, March 21, 2008 9:42am]
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