I always managed to scrape by. Back in the late 80s I did not earn enough to pay the electric bill in my all electric apartment. In the spring they would shut the electric off until I payed the bill and a huge deposit. Back in those days jobs were scarce and I had to take whatever job I could find. The company I worked for back then did not even pay me minimum wage, they used a loop hole by having under 15 employees, they were crooks. I left there and worked at a sweat shop for several years. I ran 6 presses at a time in a rubber factory that made automotive parts. I started there during a heat wave and it was 130 degrees on the press line I ran. My second day I got a third degree burn across the top of my arm and I don't know how I ever managed to stay there for 7 years. The molds I ran had to be drug out of the presses with a chain hoist and they were 5 and 10 minute molds, it was real hard and if you did not meet production you were fired. I watched 6 people get fired my first day there and I figured I wouldn't last long either but somehow I did. My 2nd wife racked up some huge bills and I found myself going in early and working double shifts all the time....
I was seriously injured at the rubber factory and almost lost the eyesight in my only eye with sight. I was lucky, after 3 eye operations I went from legally blind to having decent vision out of the good eye. I got a job in a factory that painted car parts and in 3 months time I was made a supervisor in paint mix! I started tinkering with computers in my spare time and took right to it. Out of the blue one day I got a call asking me I wanted to work in a IT department in a factory that payed really well. I thought, what the heck it's worth a shot. I worked in IT for 3 years until the factory closed it's doors. I moved from job to job for a few years after that, back on production lines because there was nothing else around. I finally settled on the job I have making wiring harnesses because it was a half way decent environment and they treat people pretty fair. I can keep my bills paid and not have to worry about getting injured, the pay is not too bad but it took 5 years to get to a decent pay rate.
The point of my post is that there is always some kind of job out there, it just may not be what you want. I have worked in places that have 65% turn over rates because I had to. I worked in a factory once where I kept breaking out in hives because they were so bad. They worked me so hard I had to have hernia surgery because they would not rotate me on the line like they were supposed to! I had to take nerve pills to keep from breaking out in hives and killing someone, it was that bad! That place was the only job I ever quit without having another job lined up, it was the worst place I had ever worked at and I have been in some pretty bad factories in my life. Luckily, I got on where I am now and I worked myself into the department I am in now.
All this goes to show that even in a bad economy there is work if you are willing to do whatever it takes to get by. I have worked some really hard and dirty jobs but have always managed to survive.