Just before Thanksgiving, Vernon Williams became an unhappy statistic: one of the first of 190 Prince George's County workers to be laid off as a result of the economic downturn.

He stayed home and moped while his family went to a relative's house for the holiday observance. Then, he began to find things to be thankful for -- his wife, his three children, his health -- and he began churning out re'sume's.

The family got help from friends and relatives. Williams and his wife, Denise, tried hard to be upbeat, but some days were better than others.

Then, last week, Vernon Williams landed a job.

Earlier this year, to be closer to home, Williams, 34, of Upper Marlboro, gave up a globe-trotting job he loved and took a $15,000-a-year pay cut to work as a county electrical building inspector. Then he got laid off.

Now he is going to work for ABB Service Co. as an electrical field engineer for close to what he was making before his four-month county stint.

"It's what I do," he said. After he got the good news, he said, he went home, phoned his wife -- who works for a youth counseling agency -- "went up to my bedroom and said a prayer. I've got to remember these days to be thankful."

Williams said the Christmas season is "still going to probably be tight, but it'll be a very merry Christmas because I think our spiritual foundation will be better than it ever has been."