JOBS sign on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C.

By Henry Kerali

– The Washington, D.C., unemployment rate dropped to 8.5 percent in the month of October, a 0.2 percent decrease from September. Ward eight continues to have the highest unemployment rate out of the District’s eight wards coming in with a rate of 21 percent. Meanwhile, ward three has the lowest unemployment rate at 2.1 percent.

In a report from the Department of Employment Services (DOES), preliminary numbers for the month of October show there was an increase of 4,100 jobs in the area bringing the overall total to 738,600 jobs. While the private sector gained 4,800 jobs, the public sector payroll fell by 700 jobs.

D.C. Unemployment Rate for October 2012

D.C. Unemployment Rate for October 2012. (Graphic by Henry Kerali)

– Meanwhile, DOES also confirmed that the American Job Center – Southwest has been relocated from its original location of 4100 South Capitol Street, NW, to 3720 Martin Luther King Avenue, SE. As well as providing services such as workforce development and resume workshops, the new job center will also offer unemployment compensation assistance.

– Furthermore, DOES and the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) are combining forces to create the Re-Employment, Training and Assistance Program (RETAP). The program has been setup to aide former DCPS employees in their efforts to find new jobs. This takes place in light of recent events that saw many employees lose their jobs as DCPS made cutbacks to the workforce.

– Lastly, thirty-three unemployed veterans were hired during the Veterans Path2Work event at Gallaudet University on Nov.5. The event, part of the ‘One City, One Hire’ initiative, which seeks to get the District’s unemployed back to work, had more than 100 veterans in attendance. DOES director Lisa Maria Mallory expressed her delight in the turnout:

I am pleased with the outcome of Veterans Path2Work. I cannot think of a better way to honor our Veterans than by helping them to transition back into the workforce and assisting them with finding sustainable employment.

That’s it for this month’s round-up! Stay tuned later this week as D.C. Work Rate looks into how the looming ‘fiscal cliff’ could impact the District’s local economy.

(This photo was taken by vpickering, via Flickr, using a Creative Commons license.)


The Working Poor

Posted: November 24, 2012 in Homelessness
Tags: ,
Tyrone Murray on the corner of Wisconsin Avenue, Tenlytown. (Photo by Henry Kerali)

Tyrone Murray on the corner of Wisconsin Avenue, Tenlytown. (Photo by Henry Kerali)

By Henry Kerali

Since the start of the ‘Great Recession’, the homeless population has increased significantly. In a recent study by the Metropolitan Washington Council, 6,954 people in the District of Columbia are homeless. This is a six percent increase from 2011 where there were 6,546 people living without homes.

Despite the District’s falling unemployment rate, homelessness in the region continues to be an endemic problem. Of the 6,954 people who are homeless, 16 percent of single adults are gainfully employed. Tyrone Murray, 54, is a ‘Street Sense’ vendor, who works on the corner of Wisconsin Avenue and River Road in Tenlytown. ‘Street Sense’ is a newspaper written and distributed by the homeless. Murray represents a class of what’s known as the working poor.

For more about the ‘Street Sense’ vendor, click on the feature below. D.C. Work Rate’s Henry Kerali depicts a typical day in the life of Tyrone Murray.

Job fair in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Henry Kerali)

By Henry Kerali

The dust has settled. Battle lines erased. Political ads nowhere to be seen. The election season has drawn to a close. In an intensely fought race, incumbent President Barack Obama and Republican rival, Mitt Romney each pitched themselves to the nation as the best man to lead the country forward in turbulent economic times. After months of deliberation, on Nov. 6, voters went to the polls to cast their ballots. Ultimately, their voices were heard.

And now, two weeks on from Obama’s victory, what do Americans expect from the president as he embarks upon a second term? Furthermore, in an election race where jobs and the economy took center stage, what do the nation’s unemployed hope from Obama going forward in the next four years?


At a job fair in Washington, D.C., on Monday, people from the D.C. Metropolitan area and further afield, voiced their concerns about the economy and their job prospects in general. Alvin Bess, 49, an urban planner from Fayetteville, NC, has been looking for work for almost three years. Despite having over a decade of experience, Bess has struggled to find a new job. After going to a number of career fairs in North Carolina, Bess decided to try his luck in the nation’s capital.

“It took me five hours to get here,” he recalled. “I’ve been looking for work since the first part of 2010.”

Bess said although his enforced time off hasn’t always been ideal, it’s allowed him to go back to school to continue his studies. He hopes going back to school will put him in a “better position” to compete in today’s competitive job market.

And while he remains optimistic about his own future, Bess said he’s confident Obama will continue to turn the economy around in his next term. “Things are definitely picking up,” he said. “It will get better. But everyone in Washington needs to work together.”

College Graduates

Bess’ comments were echoed by John Wahab, 24, a recent college graduate from Fairfax, VA. Wahab has high hopes that Obama will steer the country in the right direction. The 24-year-old graduate aspires to work for the federal government after he graduated from the University of Maryland earlier this year. However, Wahab is already concerned that he hasn’t been able to find the kind of jobs that he wants.

“It’s hard, especially for recent college graduates,” he said. “I mean, they don’t have a lot of entry-level positions for guys like me.”

Wahab said employers seem to look for candidates with vast amounts of experience. Moreover, he lamented the fact that so few entry-level positions are available to graduates looking to get their foot through the door.

Wahab’s case is not atypical. Beverly Hunter, 22, from Hyattsville, MD, is another college graduate who’s found entering the civilian workforce tough going. With a degree in business administration, Hunter has been looking for a full-time job for the last five months. But after a string of unsuccessful interviews, Hunter admitted she has grown frustrated.

“It’s been difficult. I have a temporary job, but I’m looking for a career path to start,” she said.

While Hunter added the slow economic recovery hasn’t aided her cause, she took comfort from the fact that she wasn’t the only college graduate struggling to find a job. Nevertheless, she remains cautiously optimistic about the future.

“I have faith the economy will get better,” she said. “But I’m just waiting to see the outcome.”

The Advent of Technology

While some are hopeful of President Obama changing the nation’s fortunes, Laura Roberts, 31, a medical coder from Vienna, VA, is less enthusiastic. Roberts currently works part-time at Michaels Arts and Crafts. She has looked for a full-time position for the last two years and has found job hunting anxiety provoking.

“It used to be that applying for a job meant walking in and filling out a five minute application, but now it means going online and spending hours filling out a form,” she bemoaned.

For Roberts, applying for a job has become a job in and of itself. She believes there isn’t much incentive to move forward in this economy as people are intimidated by the job application process. Furthermore, Roberts said things will only get better when applying for jobs is made easier for everyone. She thinks the older generation especially has become less inclined to look for work due to advances in technology.

“The advent of technology has made things so difficult for us as a nation,” said Roberts.

She feels Obama needs to adopt a system in which the needs of unemployed individuals are addressed. This, Roberts said, would go a long way to resolving the nation’s high unemployment.

“Unemployment would go down because then people would know what they were doing.”

JOBS sign on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce building in Washington, D.C.

By Henry Kerali

The U.S. economy added 171,000 jobs in the month of October, with the unemployment rate rising to 7.9 percent, a 0.1 percent increase from September, according the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The numbers come just four days before the presidential election showdown between President Barack Obama and Republican rival, Mitt Romney. With much of the political rhetoric this election season centered on the economy and jobs, the timing of the announcement could prove decisive. However, the statement from the Bureau concluded that October’s figures were essentially unchanged from that of the previous month.

And despite concerns to the contrary, the Bureau also confirmed that Superstorm Sandy, which struck the East Coast on Oct. 29, had no discernible impact in the recording of the numbers. Furthermore, the data collection of the figures were completed before the storm took place.

(This photo was taken by vpickering, via Flickr, using a Creative Commons license.)

Many trees in Tenlytown were uprooted as a result of the storm. (Photo by Gerard Calis)

By Henry Kerali

Residents seemed to breathe a collective sigh of relief as life in the Tenlytown area of Washington, D.C., appeared to return to normal Tuesday. This comes in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, which wreaked havoc across the East Coast late on Monday.

As the storm ripped through New Jersey and New York leaving behind untold damage, the District meanwhile, was left relatively unscathed.

The last few days has brought the East Coast to a standstill with millions of Americans forced to stay at home from work to seek shelter. In New York, the stock exchange closed its trading floor for a second day, while in D.C., the federal government was also closed. For the vast number of local businesses forced to close its doors, the overall impact Superstorm Sandy could have on them, and therefore, the economy, remains to be seen.

But in Tenlytown, stores and restaurants were open for business as residents went back to work.

Pedro Lazo, store manager at Robeks, said although the smoothie chain shut its doors on Monday, the storm didn’t have too great an impact on business. “It hurt us in a day,” he said. “It wasn’t too bad. We didn’t lose power. That’s the main important thing.”

However, Lazo added that on Tuesday business was slower due in large part to schools being closed. “Today hasn’t been so good,” he explained. “Because of the weather people have stayed indoors.”

Tayfun Uzun, general manager at Angelico la Pizzeria, shared a similar experience to Lazo. He said the restaurant had to close three hours earlier the day the hurricane hit. And while the pizzeria was lucky enough not to lose power, Uzum revealed that delivery sales were affected.

‘We were short on staff,” he said. “A few people didn’t show up. We were kind of jammed, but we were fine.”

While certain stores and restaurants in Tenlytown suffered slightly as a result of Sandy, not all businesses were affected by the storm. Daniel Marshall, a junior in International Studies and Film at American University, works at Hudson Trail Outfitters. He said the store thrived as the hurricane approached.

“There were lots of people freaking out about the hurricane,” he said. “They were coming in to buy headlamps and flashlights. We definitely benefitted from that.”

As the District gets back on its feet, WMATA announced that both Metrorail and Metrobus would begin operating again on a limited schedule from 2pm Tuesday, after suspending transit service on Monday. Furthermore, the transit authority said normal service would resume from Wednesday onwards. Furthermore, D.C. Public Schools and the federal government will also open on Wednesday.

The D.C. Labor FilmFest takes place at the AFI Silver Theatre in Silver Spring, MD.

By Henry Kerali

The DC Labor FilmFest is under way in Silver Spring, MD.

The festival, organized by the Metropolitan Washington Council, is now in its twelfth year since its inception in 2001.

Chris Garlock, Union Cities coordinator at the Metropolitan Washington Council, is the director of the DC Labor Film Fest. For him, the festival is a chance to showcase films that typically portray people in the workplace. He said that not enough films depict the ordinary worker.

“For many workers, when they see a film, they don’t see themselves up there,” said Garlock. “Work is very rarely portrayed well in the movies – either you’re invisible completely or their portrayals are one-dimensional or not very interesting.”

This year’s festival in particular has a focus on public sector workers, with films such as “Burn” and “American Teacher” on show. And Garlock was keen to stress that the festival is not merely a labor union film festival, but a film festival in its own right.

“Our primary thing is we’re looking for films that are entertaining and that are very good – that you’ll come out to see,” he said. “It’s not a union labor film festival; it’s about work and workers.”

For more on this year’s festival, click on the link below. D.C. Work Rate’s Henry Kerali reports from the American Film Institute’s Silver Theatre.

(Photo and Soundcloud thumbnail picture courtesy of DC Labor FilmFest’s Facebook page.)

Ward 8 continues to have the highest unemployment rate in the District.

By Henry Kerali

The Washington, D.C., unemployment rate dropped to 8.7 percent in the month of September, a 0.1 percent decrease from August. Of the eight Wards in the District of Columbia, ward eight remains the most affected by joblessness with a rate of 21.9 percent. Meanwhile, ward three has the lowest unemployment rate at 2.2 percent.

In a report from the Department of Employment Services, preliminary numbers for the month of September show there was an increase of 7,600 jobs in the area bringing the overall total to 736,000 jobs. While the private sector gained 7,400 jobs, the public sector also increased by 200 jobs.

The D.C. unemployment figures for the month of October will be released by the Department of Labor on Nov. 20.