Edward Boyle said his boss called him that day in September 2010 and said he had a meeting in human resources in 20 minutes.
He didn’t say why. He didn’t have to.
“Right then, I knew,” said Boyle.
The 43-year-old cleared out his desk and walked through the slot department at Mohegan Sun Casino with 20 other people, all of whom he recognized after having worked there 14 years. Some were hysterical.
“I went home shaking visibly,” he said. “It’s a life change. I’ve had two full-time jobs in my life. Just under 10 years with the Navy and 14 years with Mohegan Sun.”
The Norwich-New London Labor Market has lost 7,900 jobs since the start of the recession in mid-2008, and more than three-quarters of those losses occurred in the areas of government, manufacturing or construction.
The area’s two casinos - Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun - fall into the “government” category in state labor market statistics. Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, Inc., falls into manufacturing as a chemical manufacturer.
The Department of Labor reported Thursday that Connecticut lost 4,100 jobs in June, dropping for the second month in a row, after losing 5,500 the month before.
More Seeking Help
The Eastern Connecticut Workforce Investment Board operates four work centers that serve 41 Connecticut towns in partnership with the Department of Labor to help people spruce up resumes, brush up on skills and find a new job.
Last year, the centers in New London, Norwich, Danielson and Willimantic saw almost 13,000 people. They stopped in 53,000 times.
“It’s not just that people are out of work, but that they keep coming back,” said John Beauregard, executive director.
The centers see people affected by large and small layoffs. Since 2008, they’ve had about a 30 percent increase in the number of people seeking help, he said.
In the Groton market area, most were let go in large numbers by major employers, Beauregard said.
Foxwoods laid off 700 employees in the fall of 2008. Mohegan Sun laid off 355 in September 2010. Pfizer Pharmaceuticals announced in February it will cut up to 1,100 jobs in the next two years – 25 percent of its local workforce - to save costs and streamline operations.
The Department of Labor reported a statewide unemployment rate of 9.1 percent in May, and a rate of 9.0 percent for Norwich-New London.
Last week, Electric Boat told 104 employees at the Groton shipyard - including carpenters, machinists, pipefitters and sheet metal workers - that they will be laid off in September.
Robert Hamilton, director of communications for Electric Boat, said the job changes are related to the cycle of submarine production, not the economy. When the company’s working and repairing subs, they need workers on the waterfront. When they’re nearing the end of submarine production and are designing a new sub, they need engineers and designers, he said.
One Job, 110 Applicants
Businesses who hire are inundated with applicants.
Donna Yother, president of Sava Insurance in Waterford, said she advertised for a receptionist three months ago.
She received 110 resumes. Some worked in the hospitality industry and casinos or in the medical field. Some had lost professional jobs.
Many were so overqualified she couldn’t even look at them.
“It was very sad seeing someone with a bachelor’s and a master’s degree applying for a receptionist/administrative assistant job,” said Yother, who has owned the insurance company for 14 years. “I had four or five from Pfizer.”
Others were looking to re-enter the workforce in midlife. Georgie McGlinchey, 56, of New London, is in school at the University of Connecticut at Avery Point. She worked various jobs over the years and stayed home to raise her children. She later learned Yother was overwhelmed with resumes and had candidates with insurance experience.
McGlinchey said the work search has been awful, mostly because she can’t get in the door for an interview. She’s applied online for jobs without knowing the name of the company or the position.
“I sent a thank you note to the Florence Griswold Museum because I got a letter of rejection,” she said. “I was just so glad to hear an acknowledgment of my existence.” McGlinchey now works weekends, answering phones at a cruise ship company.
Yother interviewed 10 people.
“That’s how you have to do it, because otherwise you'd go crazy,” she said.
She ultimately gave the job to a woman whose previous employer she knew.
"I Miss My Family"
Boyle, the former Mohegan Sun worker, said he heard rumors there were layoffs coming, but he never expected to among those let go.
He worked as a slot repair technician, and had created a job helping the boss of slot repair, who he’d gotten to know as a friend. Boyle was earning $55,000 at the time of his layoff, and figured he’d move up.
Then he got the call. He said many others were also longtime employees.
The company said it was the economy: just as many guests were coming to the casino, but they had one-tenth less to gamble and spend.
Boyle believed that; so in some ways, he had no hard feelings. But on another level, he felt betrayed. And he wanted them to take him back.
“I’m bummed. I miss my family,” he said. “Fourteen years working in the same building to help the Mohegan Tribe build three casinos and keep them running that whole time, and I knew all those people.”
After the news, Boyle visited a work center and signed up for unemployment. He took a resume class, used the computers and applied for jobs. He had a severance for six months and was collecting unemployment for some of that time, so he was all right initially.
He’s had a few interviews, but no luck. At first, he was looking for something comparable to what his boss had at another casino.
“I am now not looking that high,” he said. “I am looking for a management position. And so far, I’m not finding anything (in casinos) unless I want to relocate.”
Trying To Regroup
Dawn LaFazia was laid off from the same casino, at about the same time. She, too, had been working 14 years, had been promoted to floor supervisor and was earning about $52,000 a year. Until one day, when she got to work and was told to go to a meeting room
She had no idea why, but heard on her way that some on the earlier shift had lost their jobs.
“I was in tears in there,” she said. “They were trying to be nice about it, but there’s really no nice way to do it.”
It took her awhile to find a job because she was afraid to go back to a casino at first. Now she’s working at MGM Grand at Foxwoods as a dealer; part-time, no benefits. She’s returning to school this fall to learn to become a pharmacy technician.
“I thought I was set there,” she said. “I went in, I did my job. You know, I wasn’t planning on changing. Not at 46.”