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Job security a concern for Utahns on this Labor Day holiday

Published: Monday, Sept. 5 2011 7:32 p.m. MDT

Larry Simpson competes in a drilling competition at City Park on Miner's Day in Park City on Monday, Sept. 5, 2011.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

PARK CITY — People all across the country enjoyed a day of fun, reflection and patriotism this Labor Day holiday. But under the surface, frustration and anxiety remain.

Today's economy is making it tougher on the middle class. A lot of people are either struggling or very nervous right now. There isn't a lot of confidence that things are getting better, or that politicians really get it.

The 114th Miner’s Day parade in Park City was a nice distraction from the still sluggish economy, as was the AFL-CIO's Labor Day picnic in Magna.

"I think uncertainty is holding us in this recession," said Pete Jones, an electrical salesman in Park City. "I think if we had any type of certainty with what this administration was going to do or what the policy was going to be for us in a year from now, I think the business climate would improve drastically."  

He said because construction is slow, so is his business. He is looking for certainty in federal policy.

Many at the Miners Day parade said they thought the recession and the nation's problems were solvable, but Washington seems broken. That was the message from retired federal sub-contractor Jerry Neimark, of San Diego, and his wife Irene, a part-time tutor.

“Obviously they're not going that well,” he said, but hopefully they'll get better. I got a lot of confidence in the people, not the government, but the people that we'll work it out."

"We worry about the future, really," she said. "About the children affording real estate where we live in California."

The couple said they like the community spirit they saw Monday and would like to see more in the nation's capitol. “Stop bickering, get down and solve the problems rather than fighting at each other,” Jerry Neimark said.

Troy and Emily Vandrimmelen and their five kids came from Kaysville for a weekend getaway. He is a real estate appraiser who has seen a down tick in business, but not as bad as 2008. She said she sees a lot of neighbors struggling.

"I've noticed a big change in the last couple of years," Emily Vandrimmelen said. "Neighbors, a lot of them are not sure about their jobs any more, they're just not as secure. Quite a few have lost jobs. A big change. People are really tightening their belts."

Both said they're tightening their belts, but believe things will improve, though it may take time.

"I think there's a lot of patriotism out there,” Troy Vandrimmelen said. “People pulling together. It's tough times, but the American spirit is strong.”

The annual Labor Day picnic in Magna was a place where thousands of union workers gather to relax on the holiday. But behind all the grilling and chilling was a sense of dread about the future: Worry about their jobs down the road, and concern about jobs being there for their children and grandchildren.

"Everybody's a little afraid of losing their jobs, their livelihood," said Andy Allen, a Kennecott worker. "They're afraid jobs aren't coming back. Everybody has to worry about their house payment, they have to worry about their children. It's definitely a bad time right now."

Some at the Magna City Park said they feel a brewing anger. The fact that President Barack Obama and the Republican lawmakers running for his job are talking about jobs doesn't matter: These people want something done.

"This is the worst economy since the Great Depression," said Diane Lewis with Laborers Local 295. "We're concerned about our future."

While Utah may have it better than many areas of the country, it seems the jobs that have been the building blocks for our economy for so long seem to be in jeopardy. Many at the picnic said they will be tuning into the GOP debates this month and starting to consider their options, with the 2012 election now about 14 months away.

E-mail: jdaley@desnews.com

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