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article imageHigh gas prices, struggling economy hurting Arkansas residents Special

By Tiffany Romine     Sep 8, 2012 in Business
Booneville - As the economy struggles and gas prices rise, like others in the United States, Arkansas citizen Daniel Noel struggles to find employment.
A struggling single father of two boys, Noel has been out of a work for nearly seven months. He lost his previous job as a maintenance mechanic when the economy slowed and the plant he worked for closed down.
Noel worked as a maintenance mechanic for five years. It wasn't his first choice for a job but he said there were always lots of opportunities and the job grew on him.
Since then Noel has lived off of scraping metal and collecting aluminum cans to feed his family. He has had luck in finding a few jobs on the side such as binding hay bails and tinkering on things here and there. All just a day's work and no more and he obtains no more than $20 to $30 for his services for the day.
"I wasn't much worried about me, but had to make sure my boys were taken care of," he said in an interview.
Noel lives in Booneville Arkansas, is a small rural farming community with a population of just over 4,000. The nearest town with employment opportunities is Greenwood which is more than 40 miles away and many residents can't afford to pay for gas to travel back and forth during the week.
In 2011, Booneville had an unemployment rate at 7.9 percent which, in a small community, makes the difference between who gets a job and who doesn't. In addition, those with higher education are getting jobs first.
"There are not a whole lot of jobs available, and the ones out there now are just looking for certified workers," said Noel. "Somebody who went to college and things like that."
Noel has sold off his poultry stock and other livestock to help cover everyday living expenses. His chicken hutches and pig pens stand empty. Not only did he add that he sold them all off for living expenses but, he could no longer afford to feed them.
City council says they encourage residents to start looking into starting a small business, noting small businesses have been known to blossom well within the area.
But Noel says that isn't an option for him because it takes money to start a business, and not many small entrepreneurs remain in the area.
"There is not a lot around here," he said. "Once the Cargill plant burned down that was it. A lot of people moved off, leaving the town with a little less people and less places open to have employment.
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