A good indicator of the deplorable unemployment rate in our region occurred Monday morning at City College of New York. Rep. Charles Rangel’s career fair turned out thousands of job seekers in a line that stretched around Shepherd Hall, “and all the way to Brooklyn,” one participant quipped.
“I’ve been out of work for more than a year,” said Dee Ramey, who had just finished submitting her application and resume to one of the 100 employers in the hall. “I’d like to find an administrative job similar to the one I had at the Apollo Theater. I need something right away, since I’ve exhausted my unemployment benefits.”
Ramey’s situation is a common one among many of the 14 million unemployed Americans. The turnout on this morning was a grim portrait of those who are determined to find some kind of work.
George Weaver has a degree in business administration and he came armed with 20 resumes. “I’m interested in any kind of business job I can get at this point,” he said. “I’ve filled out a few applications and left resumes at several spots already.”
One of the longest lines was at the New York State Department of Labor booth, where there were a number of job openings. Dan Gaynor would love to have one in operations. “I’ve only been unemployed for a month, but I’m eager to get back to work,” he said-particularly since he isn’t drawing any unemployment compensation.
Among the employers in the hall were J.P. Morgan, Citi, Champion Learning Center, Green Mountain Energy Company, the Madison Square Garden Company, CBS, AMC, the New York Foundling and Time Warner. “We have 14 positions open in sales, two in supervision and 10 concierges,” said a worker at the Time Warner booth. Several people were at her station filling out applications hoping to fill one of the available slots.
“As you can see with this massive turnout, jobs are the No. 1 concern of Americans today,” said Councilman Robert Jackson. “Yes, it’s jobs, jobs, jobs-but people are also desperately in need of affordable housing, and we can’t forget about the issue of education.”
At McKissack and McKissack, arguably the oldest African-American referral agency for community employment, a number of laborer jobs were available but they were diligently seeking skilled Black workers, like dock builders, millwrights, iron workers, plumbers, painters and metal sheet workers, just to mention a few openings at the various construction sites.
“It’s a tough time out there,” said City Comptroller John Liu, who joined Rangel, Council Member Inez Dickens and City College Vice President Karen Witherspoon at the podium. “While I commend Congressman Rangel for this effort, we need to have many more job fairs.”
Two weeks ago, a job fair was held at Jackie Robinson Park and the lines there were similar to those at City College, with many of the same people there looking for work.
“I don’t think I want to go through this again,” said one man who had been at the previous fair. “I left my applications and resumes and I haven’t heard from anybody. But what can you do? I don’t have a lot of options.”
For the thousands who attend the job fairs, they know it’s a long shot they’ll even be called for an interview, but they turned out nonetheless.
“You can’t give up,” Rangel said repeatedly. The long line of hopefuls on Monday was a barometer of the jobless picture as well as the hope that things will get better.