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New Orleans in Short Supply of Workers

October 17, 2005|From Reuters

NEW ORLEANS — Workers have become a precious commodity in the Mardi Gras capital as it flickers back to life.

Signs advertising jobs dot the landscape of this devastated city, even in areas that bore the brunt of Hurricane Katrina's fury.

In St. Bernard Parish, a working-class district that suffered extensive flooding, companies search high and low for help.

At a job fair Sunday, one of many held in the city in recent weeks, Paul Day was among those in the hunt for workers.

"We've got jobs for people," said Day, a trainer with Fluor Corp., a California-based engineering firm that has been contracted by the federal government to help rebuild New Orleans and other parts of the Gulf Coast.

"If they can pass the drug screen, they'll get work," said Day, as he staffed a booth at the fair.

He and other prospective employers said the lack of housing in the city was an obstacle for those looking for jobs. The hurricane damaged thousands of homes, and many remain uninhabitable.

The city is working on a plan to house people in makeshift trailer parks, hotels and unused military bases, but it says it is counting on the private sector to help ease the crunch by offering workers temporary accommodations.

Although Hurricane Katrina destroyed hundreds of businesses in New Orleans, prompting tens of thousands to file for unemployment benefits, it created opportunities for others.

Construction firms, many of them with contracts provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, are among those attempting to fill what officials say is a gaping hole in the local economy.

Hotels, restaurants and bars are going to great lengths to find workers. Some are offering bonuses of $1,000 or more to job applicants who agree to stay for a year.

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