Unemployed workers continue to search for jobs in 2013

New Year

KPCC/Wendy Lee

William Hutton, a former project engineer at Southern California Edison, has been unemployed for more than three years. He currently makes extra cash by watching dogs when their owners go on vacation.

On New Year’s Eve, William Scott Hutton’s situation went from bad to worse.

The Venice resident was $36,000 in debt and on Monday, his only asset—a white Land Rover—was repossessed by his credit union.

Hutton, a former project engineer at Southern California Edison, has been unemployed since 2009. He’s applied to more than 480 jobs and hasn’t received an offer yet.

“After three and a half years, you have to wonder if it’s almost the definition of insanity—keep doing the same thing and expecting a different result,” Hutton said.

He still remembers when he first purchased the Land Rover four years ago. He called it “LaRry3,” and spotted it at a West Hollywood car dealership across the street from his doctor’s office. It was one of the few cars that could fit Hutton, who's a tall husky guy.

Since he was earning $85,000 a year at Southern California Edison, paying for a Land Rover wasn’t a problem.

But that has changed after years of unemployment. He didn’t get a new contract from Southern California Edison in June 2009 and hasn’t been able to find work since. The monthly car bills became too expensive and Hutton was short $9,500 on payments for the Land Rover.

He had put it up for sale before it was repossessed.

“This was the vehicle I looked at, where if I could keep this vehicle going, I could still be a success,” Hutton said. “That I still had something to show for my efforts.”  

These days, Hutton, 55, lives at his partner Ken’s house in Venice rent-free. He babysits dogs for $40 a day to earn some extra cash. Over the holidays he earned $460, and some of that money went toward buying Ken’s Christmas gift—a sweater from Abercrombie & Fitch. Ken said he didn’t get Hutton anything, Hutton recalled.

Hutton replied, “Excuse me, I’ve been living in it for the entire year. I think that kind of counts.”

Hutton realizes that he’s lucky. He says he used to buy drinks for his friends on New Year’s Eve. Yesterday, they bought his meal.

Still, there are times when he gets frustrated, when his friends tell him he’s got to be able to get a job, implying that he’s doing something wrong. Hutton has accumulated $36,000 in debt from things like car payments, rent and travel bills.

“Sometimes in anger, I’ll just come back to them and literally get very loud on top of my high horse and just say. 'What the expletive-deleted else do you want me to do?' and list all the stuff I’ve done,” Hutton said.

After losing his job, Hutton said his New Year’s resolution in 2010 was to find work. After that, it was to not spend excess money. Now, his resolution is just to “be able to recognize that things aren’t as good as I want them,” Hutton said.

“Just to recognize that not being employed is a big deal to me and that sometimes I’m really angry about it,” Hutton said. “And … not be upset with other people because I’m angry about being unemployed.”

On Wednesday, Hutton will give his credit union the keys to his Land Rover and he’ll collect his belongings in the car—CDs, a souvenir rubber duck and a hairbrush. He plans to keep applying for work.

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