June 21, 2009 — -- Friday's unemployment figures paint a stark reality of the struggling U.S. economy. The Western states, including California, Nevada and Oregon, flew past 10 percent in May with heavy losses in construction, manufacturing and tourism. This is the first time in more than 25 years that a region of the U.S. has suffered double-digit joblessness, according to the U.S. Labor Department.
But some people, like Chris and Misty Powell in Texas, see a silver lining in today's tough economic times.
Ever since the couple married, construction is how Chris, 36, put food on the table. But then the recession hit, and like thousands of construction workers, he was laid off.
Misty Powell, 37, had left her job of five years as a teacher at a low-income school to take care of their 14-month son and 3-year-old daughter. Her son has a swallow disorder, and daycare wasn't an option.
"After you go through crisis after crisis, you kind of get to the point where you go, you know, I'm ready to [take a] risk," Misty said.
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The Powells weren't just scared of having no source of income; it was what they decided to do next that turned out to be the biggest risk of all. They wouldn't look for a new job. Instead, they would follow a lifelong dream and open their own business.
"Sometimes you just need a kick to get out there -- something that makes you re-evaluate what you're doing. Getting laid off did that," Chris told ABC News.
Misty remembered the warnings of friends and family about small businesses and their failure rate.
"It was a no-brainer," Misty said. "We're going to put our whole heart and soul into it, and we may lose everything but that's OK because we've been there before."
Misty had wanted to run a children's resale store since she was a little girl. Her mother usually bought second-hand items. One time, Misty needed a coat and her grandmother took her to a mission to find one. It turned out to be a fake rabbit coat.
"I never had anything that nice," Misty remembered, tearing up. "I put it on and I felt like a million bucks. That's what I want for people who come [to my store]."
In order for their dream to become reality, the Powells used Chris' severance and took out some loans. In February, the Little Giggles Kids Resale store opened for business in Arlington, Texas.
It's certainly not the first time someone who got let go got going.
J.K. Rowling was fired from her job as a secretary and went back to that idea she had for a children's book, "Harry Potter," to be exact. Martha Stewart was among the thousands of Wall Street traders who found themselves without a job in the 1973 recession. That's when she started a catering business. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg used his severance to build a multibillion dollar financial empire.
Harvey Mackay is a New York Times No. 1 bestselling author. His book, "We Got Fired! .... And It's the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Us," profiles celebrities who were given pink slips.
"People that are focused, that are consumed with doing something they love, that can't wait until they get up in the morning, they will be successful," Mackay told ABC News. "They will land on their feet."
Across the country, pink slips are becoming permission slips to pursue passions.
April White lost her public relations job in New York a few weeks ago. She's found a new love: DJ-ing at Manhattan nightclubs.
"I'm sort of embracing the layoff as an opportunity to pursue something maybe I would have had the courage to pursue, but maybe not," she said. "My layoff has definitely been a blessing in disguise."
And then there's Tamsin McMahon.
When the newspaper she worked for started cutting jobs, McMahon decided to take a hike: a 2,650 mile, six-month journey along the Pacific Crest Trail. And she found a way to get paid for it by writing freelance travel articles along the way.
"I think I am going to look back on this year as a really successful year for myself," McMahon said when ABC News caught up with her near Cabazon, Calif.
The Powells of Texas trek has brought them to a point where they are now earning as much as Chris was bringing home in construction. They have hired three employees. Misty spends six days a week at the store.
Chris works mostly from home, doing the ordering, the accounting and taking care of the kids.
While you can't put a price on the increased family time, that's a benefit of their new life.
"Every day we know that there's the possibility that we may wake up tomorrow and it may not be so successful," Misty said.
Chris agreed. "It was going to be really hard either way because of the recession," he told ABC News. "If it's going to be really hard, you might as well go for your dream."
ABC News' Christine Brouwer and The Associated Press contributed to this report.