If anyone in America could plausibly claim immunity to the unemployment crisis, Joe Sangataldo figured to be the guy. He earned his wages at a county social services center in southern New Jersey, where he helped jobless welfare recipients try to find work. In a nation beset by relentless decline, here was a rare growth industry, one with staying power.
But last fall, confronted with what it portrayed as an otherwise-unbridgeable budget gap, Cumberland County laid off Sangataldo along with six of his co-workers. A career civil servant with a college degree, he suddenly found himself part of the very mass of people he had previously been paid to assist.
“I went from serving the people affected by the recession to being part of the recession,” Sangataldo said. “I had to sit there and tell these people, “Well, I won’t be here next week. They’re laying people off.’ And they’re like, ‘Well, if they’re laying you off, where’s the hope for me?'”