BIG LAKE, Minn. -- On Thanksgiving Eve, the Dammeier family of Big Lake is enjoying a holiday tradition. They're reuniting with a son back from college and reflecting on a year that's been difficult.
We first met the Dammeiers back in June. At that time, it had been just six months since Wayne lost his job as a local pastor. The family didn't know then how long their journey would take -- a journey that included trips to the local food shelf and help from family and friends.
"You just never imagine it's going to happen to you. And all of a sudden, there you are," Wayne said.
But this month, that journey ended. Wayne got a new job as an IT Consultant with Wipro-Retail.
"Got a great job with a great company, the pay's great. We just feel incredibly blessed," Wayne said.
And economists predict the Dammeier's story will become more and more familiar in the months and years to come.
"We're actually kind of better off," said Dr. David Vang, a finance professor with the University of St. Thomas.
Vang said most Americans may realize the toughest times are behind us, but many still remain fatigued by a long year of battling a bad economy.
"Last year, we had quite a bit of positive growth for a few quarters. And then things turned bad toward the end of the year. This holiday season, people have already lived through three quarters of really tough economic times," he said, adding that it's also difficult for people, given that unemployment is a lagging economic indicator and will likely improve sometime next year.
Meantime, the key -- Vang said -- is for people to trust the positive economic signs, including the National Bureau of Economic Statistics' latest numbers, showing the economy grew by 2.8 percent last quarter.
For the Dammeiers, they're sharing their gratitude and their wisdom this Thanksgiving season.
"I would say to anyone that is unemployed at this holiday season, please don't despair. You must count your blessings. For us, the first thing that we realized was the most important thing was family and relationships and that could never be taken from us no matter what," said Janice Dammeier.
"There's always hope. So hang in there," Wayne said.
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