Posts Tagged ‘Jobs’

The Working Poor

Posted: November 24, 2012 in Homelessness
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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.

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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.)

Panelists discuss ways to get the unemployed back to work. (Photo by Janay Christian)

By Henry Kerali

A policy summit that focused on jobs in the energy sector took place at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.

Industry experts allege that while there is a growing demand for jobs, few people in the workforce have the skill set required for these positions.

Keynote speaker, Jane Oates, assistant secretary of ETA at the U.S. Department of Labor, acknowledged the disparity by saying that the government is doing more to help employees improve their skills.

“Getting people into a job is the single most important part of my job,” Oates said.

She highlighted the importance of Jobs Corps and Registered Apprenticeship – training programs that lead unemployed workers into jobs.

Apprenticeships are prevalent in companies in the manufacturing and construction trades. However, such programs are becoming more common in growing industries, such as the energy sector.

Oates mentioned that the Department of Labor is placing greater emphasis on apprenticeship programs providing workers with industry-recognized credentials. Oates says credentials are essential to aiding workers in establishing their careers.

“It’s not about getting a job; it’s about getting a career trajectory,” she said.

Skills Gap, Structural Unemployment

With the unemployment rate now lower than eight percent, displaced older workers, students entering the workforce and war veterans are among the demographics particularly affected by joblessness.

This is due in large part to a skills gap. In the manufacturing industry alone, as much as 600,000 jobs are going unfilled because of unqualified applicants. Economists attribute this to structural unemployment.

Panelists at the policy summit discussed the impact that this is having on the job market. Nicole Smith, senior economist at The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, said that structural unemployment is an endemic problem.

On the manufacturing and construction industries, Smith said, “Where jobs [in that area] have been lost, they are not coming back, and where the jobs have been gained, they are in different sectors.”

Smith added that job growth has surfaced in post-secondary sectors, such as healthcare and education. But the main concern for her is not just the widening skills gap, but for the people who have been unemployed for six months or more.

“Many employers are reluctant to hire people who have been unemployed for a substantial number of months,” said Smith. “Once they see a few gaps [in your CV], they naturally assume that maybe you’re unemployable.”

Community Colleges

While that is the case, the panelists were in agreement over the role community colleges play in solving the conundrum the skills gap poses.

Clay Goodman, vice president of Occupational Education at Estrella Mountain Community College, said that community colleges provide an alternative to traditional four-year degrees. He also talked of a growing trend that is taking place in institutions across the country.

“Right now there’s a trend called ‘Reverse Transfer’,” he said. “People who have a four-year degree in, say, the liberal arts, are coming back to community colleges to get a skill set that has some economic value.”

But for Dave Owens, executive vice president of the Edison Electric Institute, he feels as though substantial improvements of the nation’s education system need to be made. He said that not enough children are interested in studying subjects like science, technology, engineering or mathematics.

“We’ve got to realign our curricula … so the curricula are practical to the jobs that are being created,” he said.

(Anchor lede voiced by Natalie Plumb. Story voiced and produced by Henry Kerali.)