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I Relied On My Macy's Job To Pay My Bills, Furloughed Worker Says

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The number of Americans out of work has risen by millions in just a few weeks, and this week, we are meeting some of those millions. Ro Worrall has been a Macy's employee for the past five years.

RO WORRALL: It is my one and only job. And I was working 30 to 40-plus hours. It's the only job I had at the time, so I did rely on it to pay all my bills.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Worrall worked in cosmetics for the retailer in Portland, Ore. The job meant making sacrifices at certain times of the year.

WORRAL: A lot of the busy holiday season, I'm the one that they'll call and be like come and help us out. And I have dedicated Christmas holidays. I'm there the day before Christmas every year. I work Thanksgiving night every year.

INSKEEP: Worrall's future is uncertain because Macy's closed all of its stores two weeks ago, which meant no more shifts. And yesterday, the company announced it was furloughing the majority of its 125,000 employees.

WORRAL: It's just been, like, really financially scary because I had to immediately file for unemployment. I had to immediately file for food stamps.

MARTIN: Despite that, Worrall feels lucky to be getting a break on rent from their landlord. A tax refund provided a little savings, so the bills are paid for now.

WORRAL: But when that money runs out, if I don't have a new job, I don't know what I'm going to do.

MARTIN: Worrall doesn't feel as if Macy's is doing enough.

WORRAL: Cosmetics is my passion in life, and the company hasn't treated me poorly at all until this point. And I just feel like receiving zero compensation for five years of work and service is really crappy. And it makes me sad. A lot of people don't realize this - working for these retail jobs is, like, what people do. Like, literal real-life, everyday people will work at Macy's for 10-plus years.

INSKEEP: This company released a statement yesterday saying that they quote, "expect to bring colleagues back on a staggered basis as business resumes." But for Worrall, the attention has now turned to a very challenging job market.

WORRAL: I started with Macy's when I was 18 and I've always lived paycheck to paycheck with this company. I'm trying to learn now skills like Excel and, like, getting my type count up so that I can, like, work office jobs, better paying jobs. That's just, like, my main focus is just getting a new job and getting to a place where I don't have to live paycheck to paycheck at all.

MARTIN: Worrall's hoping a career transition might lead to a more stable way of life.

(SOUNDBITE OF MELORMAN'S "FORGOTTEN PLACES") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.