Precarious job market makes it tough for unemployed

National news this past week threw some cold water on recent indicators that the job market is improving.

Jobless claims increased by 15,000, the biggest gain in almost two months.

Some economists say hiring is cooling although payrolls rose by 96,000 workers in August.

In other words, it's still tough out there.

Even for people like Marty Vela, who was making close to a six-figure salary when he fell out of the job market two years ago.

A 20-year veteran with UnitedHealthcare, Vela moved in 2010 from Texas to Bradenton with the understanding he would be working from home as a project manager.

But when he got a new boss, Vela found himself faced with the prospect of commuting more than three hours a day.

So he quit his job, confident that his years of experience would carry him swiftly into his next one.

But, two years later, Vela is still living on savings and has essentially started over. He went back to school to expand his associate's degree in marketing to something more bankable.

"It didn't take 20 minutes to realize that without a bachelor's degree, I couldn't make it, there were no jobs out there," he said.

So he is now at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee getting a degree in accounting and hoping to graduate in 2014. With a few internships under his belt, Vela expects to finally plunge back into a job.

The 48-year-old has met a lot of younger job seekers who can't fathom the fact he was making almost $100,000 and gave it up.

"I try to tell them that there are things worth giving it up for but at their age, they don't

understand. Your priorities change. I traveled so much, I was out of town all the time. After years, that grinds on you," Vela said.

Despite all his job preparations, the "wild card" he knows he may face as he reenters the job market is employer discrimination.

"I can't do anything about that. I just know if I get the interview, I know I will get job," Vela said.

The one word of advice he has for those still in the job market is to make sure their education achievements match their skills.

"I see people who have good jobs but they don't have the education," he said.

If he could do it over again, Vela would have tried to find another position in the company where he could have telecommuted while he looked for a job closer to home.

But losing his job in a rotten job market is allowing Vela to start over again. He can now truly appreciate the value of a degree.

Vela had always planned to return to school but it was going to be on his terms. His father has his doctorate and his mother and sister both have their masters.

"I planned to get my degree when I retired, kind of as a hobby," he said. "How did that work out?"