Couple faces one-two-three punch in bad economy

Tens of thousands of Southern Californians have lost their jobs this past year. Economists predict that the number will reach into the hundreds of thousands by December. KPCC's Frank Stoltze reports that some families have faced a double whammy.

Frank Stoltze: A couple of months ago, Jay Antani's boss called him into the office. A week earlier, someone at work had told the advertising writer for 1-800-DENTIST that the company was in good shape.

Jay Antani: So I'm OK, this might have to do with this project, they probably want me to do some copy editing, cool, whatever, I brought my notes with me. We walk down the hallway and into this office and wait, who's this, it's the HR lady.

Stoltze: The next day at the Walt Disney Company, Jay's wife Susan was called into her boss's office. Like her husband, she'd been assured there'd be no layoffs. The online content producer expected to discuss her goals for the year.

Susan Antani: So I had actually prepped the night before making sure I was ready to talk to him about everything, and came to the meeting with printouts of everything – and felt kind of like an idiot when I found out what was going on.

Stoltze: One of the first things Susan Antani thought about as she listened is that the timing of her and her husband's layoffs couldn't have been worse.

Susan Antani: The HR lady starts to talk about the severance and the insurance and I just kind of panic and sort of freak out about the baby, and the reality of looking for work when you're six-and-a-half months pregnant.

Stoltze: The Culver City couple is expecting its first child. The federal economic stimulus package pays for 60 percent of COBRA health insurance continuation for laid-off workers. That still leaves the Antanis paying several hundred dollars a month for coverage. Jay said he spotted a few job prospects... at first.

Jay Antani: Whereas now, the last four, five, six, seven weeks, there's nothing! It's almost as if we've stepped in another reality.

Stoltze: He said he's scored freelance copywriting work through friends.

Jay Antani: I think its all through networking now. You get almost nothing now through the job boards.
Susan Antani: Well, and also Facebook, because your people in your community now know you're laid off 'cause we talk about it publicly.
Jay Antani: Well, Facebook was huge 'cause once you put the status update up, it invites reaction, and so that's how a lot of our friends found out.
Susan Antani: That's how you got the Rand McNally work is through Mike.
Jay Antani: Yeah, yeah.

Stoltze: The Antanis' social life has changed. They rarely eat at restaurants anymore. Instead of going to the movies they hang out with friends and play Scrabble. Susan's taken after her grandmother, who survived the Great Depression 70 years ago.

Susan Antani: For a long time my mother would tell me stories about how my grandmother saved everything – she saved wrapping paper and she saved twine and she saved plastic bags, and the past few months I literally save everything.

Stoltze: Both said the state of the economy has kept them from taking their layoffs personally. Susan's two brothers have been laid off too. But for Jay, it's hard to shake off the experience of supervisors escorting him to his desk to clean up and move out.

Jay Antani: You just feel like you're just tarred and feathered and run out of town or something, and the townspeople are there to make sure you get out of town on a rail or something.

Stoltze: For a while, Jay and Susan were angry at the whole economic mess – at Bernie Madoff, at the bailouts for big financial institutions. Suffering "rage fatigue," they cut back on watching the news. Still, Susan said she's not obsessed with the economic realities their child will face.

Susan Antani: I'm not because I know that these businesses, these corporations, they're going to find a way to be profitable again. It's going to improve.
Stoltze: You have faith in greed?
Susan Antani: I have faith in greed. I have faith in capitalism, that it will find a way.

Stoltze: For her, capitalism is working again. Disney's offered her a new job in a different division. She's employed again, for now.

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