Dear Dirty America


Over One Hundred Jobseekers Stand In Line for LA Career Fair Bust

March 20
14:30 2012
Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES — Most of them wore their best attire while waiting in line with everybody else. A line of professionals, or those at least trying their best to appear that way. Straightened ties. Ironed slacks. Shaved cheeks. Cleaned fingernails. Pockets full of gum and breath mints.

Their eyes glanced back over their qualifications. A few of them rehearsed phrases under their breaths, and you could almost hear them silently retracing in their heads the words they’d gone over a thousand times before, and probably on their way to the career fair that early morning.

They all awaited the Los Angeles Career Fair in the LA Convention Center, where they could bravely hope for an interview and a shot at a good job. But when the doors opened and the group was ushered in, they were met with great disappointment.

Over one hundred job seekers showed up. The fair sounded prestigious, boasting face-to-face interactions with “hiring decision-makers from some of the areas top employers.” The event’s online flier cautioned attendees to dress professionally and bring plenty of resumes, because the companies would be there to hire. “Just walk in and start interviewing,” the fair’s organizers wrote, “…you can save time, money and effort interviewing with multiple companies in one day at one location.” You are no longer a piece of paper, the fair claimed.

“I got there a little late,” one young job seeker said. “I was startled by how old most of the people were. They were forties, fifties, and up it seemed.” She’s a graduate student searching for full or part time work, but like so many other Americans out there, is having serious trouble landing a job.

She walked past the long line of people as she made her way to the back. “Everybody was sizing everybody up. It was so desperate, and such a somber affair. I felt way too young to be there. What could my resume have on it to compete with people twenty or more years older than me?” Most of those in line were male. Almost everybody had a folder, and some tightly held loose papers in their hands.

The career fair was a bust. The participants had registered their names and confirmed they were coming, and they received VIP admissions. “The whole set up was misleading,” the source said. “Like there would be dozens and dozens of companies and corporations looking to hire, but when the doors were opened, many people sighed or scoffed, and many turned around after a few minutes and walked away.”

Instead of a conference room filled with corporate representatives and company men and women eagerly awaiting hungry job seekers, there were nine booths set up in a modest square. Seven of them were trade schools looking to recruit people interested in learning trades. Another booth housed the US Army.

The scene at the Los Angeles Career Fair bust is really an apt image depicting America’s plight. Tens of millions of unemployed citizens tiredly standing in line, waiting for anything (at this point) that will pay even minimum wage. Those workers flood the job market and see very few options: join the military, apply to a trade school, or compete with hundreds, if not thousands, of fellow job seekers fighting for the same handful of available positions.

If you’ve been paying attention to the news lately, you’d expect a rosier picture of slight job growth, and an economy on the mend. The Obama administration has, for two months, eagerly touted the modest addition of jobs added to the workforce. 227,000 in February. 243,000 in January. But these figures are misleading.

The statistics the White House uses shows America’s unemployment rate dipping to 8.3 percent. The real unemployment rate — which includes jobless folks who have given up on finding work, and folks who can only find fewer hours of employment than they need to pay their bills — is closer to 22 percent. That is called U6 unemployment, and it gives a far more accurate view of what’s going on in this country than the highly deceptive White House, Labor Bureau statistics.

What are young and old job seekers to do? For workers over 55, scoring a new job is generally more difficult. Arthur Delaney writes, “the average jobless spell for workers older than 55 is the longest of any age group. In February, the average older worker had been unemployed for 54.1 weeks.”

Young people yearning to begin their careers are also in distress. The graduate student I talked to wonders out loud, without a hint of sarcasm, if less savory jobs are necessary to pay the rent. After five months of searching online ads, attending job fairs, and visiting local establishments with her resumes in hand, she’s applied to just over five hundred job openings without any luck. She hints at stripping in bars or clubs, selling her body, or even peddling illegal drugs. “How long can I go without getting a job?” she asks. “This is getting ridiculous, and I’m getting desperate.”

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