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Job Seekers in a Slow Economy

November 09, 2002

Re "Caught in a Jobless Free Fall," Nov. 1: Speaking from my actual experience as a former unemployed aerospace engineer over 50 years of age, I must say that if unemployed professionals apply for retail jobs at low pay, at a large discount store or at the neighborhood dry cleaner, they will usually be rejected. The interviewer will say, "If you work here at much less pay than you made before, won't you soon leave if someone offers you a higher-paying job?"

The result is that high-paid executives, engineers, accountants, etc., cannot get low-paid jobs in retail. The employers, for their own self-interest, rightly favor people who have experience in retail work at lower salaries. Employers also prefer people younger than the typical 50-year-old unemployed manager. The one area that seems to be open to older unemployed professionals is the job of a security guard in a bank or supermarket shopping center.

I talked to a security guard at a mall who was a former aerospace engineer. An unarmed security guard job pays $8 an hour and is very boring.

The reality of long-term unemployment of professionals is actually a hidden story that is much worse than described in your article. Most unemployed older professionals either retire if they can afford it, go on welfare (if they can), work as a consultant or open their own retail business if they have the capital to do it. They generally cannot get low-paid jobs in nonprofessional fields such as retail or factory work.

Marty Annenberg

Huntington Beach

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It is very easy to find a job by going door-to-door in a business area. I have successfully followed this procedure four or five times in my life since 1969.

All you have to do is say, "Hello, do you know where I can get a job?" You don't even have to speak with an owner or manager; the staff employees almost always know where you can find a job.

If you are skeptical, I'd just like to explain that during the summer of 1969, when I asked for a job as a computer programmer at a bank in Milwaukee, the receptionist told me that the telephone company was hiring. After five or six interviews and six or seven weeks, I began work at the Wisconsin Telephone Co. as an assistant analyst.

Morgan J. Vaux

Los Angeles

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Jewish Vocational Service, a 71-year-old, nonprofit, nonsectarian agency that helps people hone their professional skills and craft their careers, with services from 13 locations in L.A. County, has seen the effects of the "jobless recovery" on Angelenos from all walks of life. Although the unemployment rate for the nation remains at 5.7%, that figure jumps in Los Angeles. In the last year, more than 13,000 people have turned to JVS for job help, a 50% increase from the previous year.

While a typical JVS client used to be a blue-collar worker or person with barriers to employment (including refugees and immigrants, people with disabilities and at-risk students), we are now seeing more and more white-collar workers, including people with years of managerial experience or new MBAs. Some former donors to JVS have become clients. Recent graduates especially, expecting the inflated salaries of the '90s boom, are disappointed at the realities of today's marketplace and are now accepting entry-level jobs at one-third the salaries their older classmates earned just a few years ago.

To address the needs of unemployed white-collar professionals and recent graduates struggling in this tough economy, JVS introduced a series of workshops called FasTrak University. Aimed at providing an advantage in a dire job-seeking environment, the workshops provide interactive coaching in identifying and marketing one's unique capabilities, networking creatively and landing project work to stay busy and gain experience.

The response has been so overwhelming that JVS is expanding the program through next year. For more information, visit www.jvsla.org or call (323) 761-8888.

Vivian B. Seigel

CEO, JVS

Los Angeles

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