Coast Job Market Is No Longer 'The Promised Land'

John Fernandez arrived on the coast a few weeks ago from Michigan, certain that with his experience as a sous chef and in restaurant management, he'd have no problem landing a job.

"I had seen specials on TV about all the casinos and all the businesses here in Biloxi and Gulfport and it looked like a situation for me," he said from his Gulfport motel room.

But he's quickly learned the truth about the coast job market. Companies are laying people off instead of hiring and after weeks living in a hotel without a job, John is left with just 12 cents to his name and no idea what to do next.

"I mean, how many choices do you have with 12 cents, you know," he said. "Where are you gonna go?"

"We hear that all the time," said Charlotte Swopes, a caseworker for Back Bay Mission.

In her job, Swopes sees a lot of people like John Fernandez.

"We get people in here from Miami, Florida, Fort Lauderdale, Washington State, just various places, that are moving here to the coast because they hear that business is booming and they really think that we have the job opportunities here when we don't anymore," she explained.

Swopes says in the past couple of months, she's seen a lot more people who are for the first time finding themselves on the verge of homelessness.

"A lot of times people in society think, 'oh well, you know they don't want to work or they don't want to do better,' but, these are people who do have education behind them, these are people who have been working for x number of years and the economy has just fallen," she said.

John Fernandez learned that lesson the hard way and is now talking with an agency about finding work in another state.

Experts say the coast job market started slowing down significantly during the summer, but there were still a few jobs available. They say things got extremely bad after September 11th. In the weeks after the terrorist attacks, two coast casinos laid off a total of 400 workers.