MASON CITY ñ Chuck Pennington slowly pedaled his way up the sidewalk on Fourth Street Southeast, heading to Hy-Vee East to cash in some cans. By Joe Buttweiler.|MASON CITY ñ Chuck Pennington slowly pedaled his way up the sidewalk on Fourth Street Southeast, heading to Hy-Vee East to cash in some cans.
His motorcycle-like bicycle was loaded with bags full of returnables. He was looking forward to buying some beer and heading to East Park to relax.
The wife doesn’t like him drinking beer, he said, but he figures he deserves a few cold ones once in a while, and since he had “earned” the money himself by picking up cans, it ought to be his call.
Pennington said he’s been out of steady work for the past five years after getting laid off from Winnebago Industries in Forest City.
He said he and his wife live in an old Winnebago Chieftain motor home in the backyard of the house on 10th Street Northeast where his son’s girlfriend lives.
Pennington pulled out a business card from USA Staffing in Mason City and said he hopes to hear from them or another temp staffing agency soon about a decent job.
He’s “looking maybe for factory work,” he said, or to work on cars at a used car dealership.
He said he moved to Forest City for the job there, and lived in a motel there for a while after the layoff, but then decided to move to Florida and look for work there, but didn’t have much luck.
“It’s hard to find work there. It’s hard everywhere, especially for older people,” Pennington said, adding that employers “seem to want to hire young people with kids.”
So he moved back to Mason City about a month ago. He’s heard some of the factories might be hiring.
Statistics from Iowa Workforce Development show the unemployment rate for Cerro Gordo County was at 6.6 percent in April, down from 7.2 percent in April of last year. Rates in surrounding counties are also down. The unemployment rate in Butler County dropped from 6.1 percent to 5.2 percent; in Floyd County it went from 7.8 percent in April 2010 to 7.3 percent in April 2011; in Franklin County it went from 6.5 percent to 5.5 percent; in Hancock County from 7.8 percent to 6.6 percent; Mitchell County from 5.7 percent to 5.3 percent; Winnebago County from 7.5 percent to 6.6 percent; and Worth County from 7.3 to 6.7 percent. Wright County, however, saw an increase in the unemployment rate, from 7.0 percent in April of 2010 to 7.8 percent in April 2011, according to IWD.
Pennington, whose bushy beard, red and denim clothing and $500 chopper-style bike made him stand out last weekend while pedaling through the North Iowa Band Festival grounds, said he moved back to Mason City because he got tired of all the sand in Florida and thought his chances of finding work here would be better. Iowa’s statewide unemployment rate last month was 6.0 percent. Florida’s was 10.8 percent.
“I sure would like to get a job and bring in a halfway decent paycheck,” he said. He said anyone wanting to help could call him at 920-229-6976.
In the meantime, he spends his days looking for things to do ñ like trying to fix an electrical problem on the Chieftain the other day ñ and looking for work.