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THE NORTHEAST. For the most part, the states from Maine to Maryland have not been hit heavily by the recession. In November, the average unadjusted unemployment rate for the six New England states was 6.2%. The New England Economic Project, a consortium of public and private interests, forecasts the rate for the region will peak at 7.4% in the second half of 1982. Pennsylvania has troubles: the sagging steel industry helped push the state's unemployment rate up to 9.3%. One laid-off Pittsburgh steelworker recalled Reagan's comment two weeks ago that the newspapers were bulging with help-wanted ads. "I read the want ads too," he grumbled. "But I'm not a nurse."
Joseph Fetchik, 44, has been out of work since he was laid off from the Ford plant in Mahwah, N. J., 18 months ago. He signed up for benefits under the Trade Adjustment Assistance program, but the checks will stop coming this spring, and Fetchik cannot find a job. His wife Thelma earns $6,800 a year driving a school bus, but her salary will not nearly support her husband and two children. "I'm in big trouble, and my whole family is going to be in big trouble," says Fetchik.
Deryl Watson, 31, was fired from her $180-a-week job as a security guard at Newark public schools last September. An unwed mother with two children, she receives $168 every two weeks in unemployment benefits and $99 per month for food stamps. "We used to eat spaghetti and meatballs, but now we just have it with tomato sauce," she says. Watson has no intention of applying for welfare because "I want to work. I want to have my own money. Besides, they don't treat you right on welfare. There's no respect at all."
THE MIDWEST. Michigan's woes have spread to nearby states, forcing thousands of layoffs in plants that supply the auto industry. Both Ohio, with a rate of 11.8%, and Indiana, at 12.4%, were among the most ravaged states in the nation. Cities were particularly hard hit. There were 38 metropolitan areas in the U.S. where the unemployment rate exceeded 10% in November, and 14 of them were in the Midwest.
The pain and frustration of unemployment shows up in small yet telling ways. The Detroit Free Press offered to let any and all unemployed job seekers run a free classified ad touting their skills; nearly 5,000 people took the paper up on its offer. At a blood plasma donation center in St. Louis, Director Ron Wilson says business is up 10% partly because more housewives and part-time workers are coming in to collect the $8 paid for every pint of plasma. In Louisville, the number of people calling the city's crisis hot line and asking for food and clothing is up 32% from last summer.