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LAYOFFS TAP OUT BLOOD DRIVE DONORS

A Tampa spokesman says even survivors of the turmoil ask: "And now you want my blood?"

JACKSONVILLE - Before the recession hit, Jacksonville's blood bank would pull its buses up to the Anheuser-Busch brewery and pump 300 units of blood from employees.

Then came buyouts, retirements and layoffs. During the company's last blood drive, the Blood Alliance collected only about 45 units.

Which is why, on a recent day, the organization's bloodmobile was parked in a driving rainstorm outside a small law firm. With the smell of latex gloves in the air, donors read the paper and listened to soft rock on the radio as workers pricked their arms with needles.

"We have to do smaller blood drives," explained John Helgren, a spokesman for the Blood Alliance. "We have to work harder to get blood these days."

In some hard-hit pockets of the country, from Florida to Michigan to Southern California, blood centers are noticing a pattern: corporate drives are attracting fewer donors.

"We are seeing a direct effect of the recession," said Toni Gould, spokeswoman for Michigan Community Blood Centers, which has seen a 15 percent to 20 percent drop this summer. The state's unemployment rate of 15.6 percent is the nation's highest. "So many businesses and factories are closing, and they accounted for a large share of mobile drives."

It's a similar story in Wisconsin, where a spokeswoman from the Badger-Hawkeye Red Cross says 33 corporate drives were canceled from June through August, resulting in 1,700 fewer units collected. The state's unemployment rate of 8.7 percent has doubled in the last year.

Florida Blood Services in Tampa, where the unemployment rate is 11.3 percent, had to import several thousand units to cover an August shortfall.

Spokesman Dan Eberts said employees at some companies are also working from home - or traveling to countries like India, where new headquarters have been set up. That makes them temporarily ineligible to donate because it's possible they were exposed to blood-borne disease.

And workers who survive layoffs often aren't in a giving mood, either.

"Some people were like, 'And now you want my blood?'" Eberts said.

The increased unemployment has helped one segment of the blood industry, though: For-profit plasma centers, which pay up to $200 a month if a person sells plasma twice a week, have seen a jump in business.

There were 15 million plasma donations in 2007, and that jumped to 18.8 million in 2008, according to their trade group.

Plasma, the fluid part of blood, is generally used to treat burn victims and to create prescription drugs.

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