"Its easy to play up the Portlandia stereotype, but the reality is quite grimmer than that," de Place says. "Most folks would like to find a decent job, but it's not the environment that they came out of college into."
Eric Hess was one of these people. He graduated from a liberal arts college in 2007 and moved back to his hometown of Portland. It took him years to find steady work. "Looking around in Portland was tough," he says. "It was surprising. I was looking for environmental nonprofit work and it was limited despite there being a big market for that kind of work in the Portland area."
Hess eventually got a job at a local mall, working for a sustainable environmental company. That company folded in 2008. Hess then moved to Seattle, where he worked as a temp for the Sightline Institute. He was finally offered a full-time job in 2008, and is now a senior communication associate at Sightline.
Hess says his experience in the new job market has altered the way he views employment. For him, security is the key. "I had a lot of friends that went to places and got laid off," Hess says. "There was a round of layoffs [at Sightline] a year ago. Had I graduated a few years earlier, I would have been more willing to take a risk. But I'm very happy with this job right now."