Bringing the Economy Home

Jobless In Idaho: Tech Worker Unemployed For Years

Molly Messick / StateImpact Idaho

Nathan Bussey lost his job with Hewlett-Packard three years ago.

Name: Nathan Bussey

Age: 33

Unemployed since: 2008

“I had only been engaged with my wife for about a month when I found out I was getting laid off.”

The Idaho Department of Labor estimates nearly 70,000 people in the state don’t have jobs.  That doesn’t include thousands more who are underemployed or have stopped looking for work.  This is the latest story in our “Jobless in Idaho” series, following several Idahoans in their search for work.

Nathan Bussey began working for Hewlett-Packard before he’d even graduated from college.  He was still a student at Boise State University when he started out in the tech support call center in 1999.  By 2005, he’d landed a job as a technical consultant, working on printer installations for Fortune 100 companies all over the country.  Then, in 2008, he got bad news.  He, like many others on his team, was being laid off.

Jobless In Idaho: Tech Worker Unemployed For Years

Even now, more than three years later, Bussey talks about how much he loved working for HP.  “It was just exciting to get a job at Hewlett-Packard,” he said.  “I had always wanted to work there.”  He worked his way up, building a comfortable life.  He bought a house, and started saving for retirement.

Photo courtesy of Nathan Bussey

Nathan Bussey earned his M.B.A. from Boise State University in December of 2010.

In mid-2008, when he first learned he would be laid off from his technical consulting job, Bussey hoped to find another position with Hewlett-Packard.  By fall, though, he realized he needed another option.  He decided to go back to school to earn an M.B.A.  In his mind, it was a practical step.  He would build a bridge to a new position.  “Nobody ever thinks, ‘Hey, I’m having trouble getting a job now.  Let me go get this extra degree and I’m sure I’ll still have trouble,'” he said.

Bussey worked as a graduate assistant, got internships and volunteered.  He did all he could to make the connections that might land a new job.  Instead, he graduated in 2010 only to resume receiving unemployment benefits.

Looking back on three years of joblessness, Bussey says it can be easy to question whether there were things he could have done differently, things that might have resulted in a job that makes use of his new degree and his experience.  He says there’s an instinct to blame himself.  “You start going back and questioning months in the past, trying to figure out, ‘What could I have done better?'” he said. He has lowered his salary expectations and given up his attachment to staying in Boise.  He’s not sure what more he can do.  “I’ve been unemployed for over three years,” he said.  “And at some point it sinks in.  You have to find other ways to make things progress in your life.  You have to find other things that are important to you.  You have to realize that work doesn’t define who you are as a person.”

For Bussey, unemployment hasn’t had the dire consequences that it’s had for some workers.  His wife has a job.  By paring down expenses, they’ve managed to keep making their house payment and avoid going into debt.  All in all, Bussey says, they’re doing okay.  But they don’t have the financial security they once had.  “We have no savings anymore,” he said.  “If something happened – if one of us got hurt or sick — we certainly would be in a much worse situation now.  We’ve used our buffer.  That rainy day fund is now gone.”

Just two weeks ago, Bussey made an important step.  He got a job.  It’s an entry-level call center position that pays less than his first job with HP did, more than ten years ago.  He didn’t bother to tell hiring managers about his newly-earned M.B.A.  He was afraid it might hurt his chances.  It’s not the job he’s been hoping and working for, but still, Bussey is upbeat.  “I’m actually more excited than I thought I would be,” he said.  “Even though it’s not where I wanted to be or where I expected to be, I think that I can do the job and enjoy the job to a point.”

Nathan Bussey says he plans to keep looking for a position that makes greater use of his training and experience.  We’ll continue to follow him and other participants in StateImpact Idaho’s “Jobless in Idaho” series.


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