The resource room at the state Labor Department’s Division of Employment Services at 250 Schermerhorn St. is quiet except for the sound of keyboards and printers. All 20 workstations are full except for one that is out of service. The cluttered bulletin board off in the corner of the room is packed with flyers for openings at Applebee’s, the MTA Career fair and various security companies.
Some people sit and wait for the phone, desperate to ask Albany where their money is. The silence is eventually disrupted by the violent slam of a telephone receiver, followed by foul language.
Labor Service Representative Shawn Morales, 31, sits at a paper-filled desk near the entrance. His job is to make the system run smoother. He needs to be tech support, a trouble-shooter, a career counselor, and at times, a shoulder to cry on. “I’m on the inside and I’m telling people on the outside to stay focused,” he said, admitting it’s the toughest part of his job.
According to James Brown, an economist with the New York State Department of Labor, there are currently 229,000 people out of work in New York City and 562,000 throughout the state. To many, the job market will be important issue when deciding which candidate to vote for Tuesday.
At the Division of Employment Services, some hope that a Barack Obama presidency will lead to more jobs, even if they have to wait to see the change.
Looking For Work
Ricardo Lopez, 37, of Ridgewood, Queens, worked his way up from a delivery boy to a managerial position at a flower shop. He has been looking for work for the last three weeks and wants to return to the flower business. He does not see Sen. John McCain as a viable option.
“The same thing McCain is saying, Bush said eight years ago,” said Lopez, who also expressed concern that a Republican in the White House could mean more war.
Katrina Wright, 25, was in Iraq two months ago. Now she’s back in New York, looking for work. She has already completed two tours in Iraq and doesn’t want to go back if she enlists for a third term. She says she will vote for “whoever and which ever candidate says they will take the army out of Iraq.”
Last Tuesday, Gov. David Paterson released a statement saying 160,000 more people are projected to be put out of work while the state faces a budget gap of $47 billion over the next four years.
Morales, who has been a labor service representative for seven years, said people are desperate for work and are not haggling over wage. “They just want to get a paycheck. They’re looking for any and everything,” said Morales. “They’re taking their salary requirements and just throwing them out the door.”
No Quick Fix
He knows the economy is to blame but he doesn’t want job seekers to see Obama as a quick, sole solution to their problems. “I just don’t want customers to misunderstand and think change is going to happen over night,” he said.
Kafele Amberslie, 27, is looking for work. He lost his job as a telemarketer and has been job hunting since January. He hopes to own a trucking business one day, but for now, he needs to make ends meet. Amberslie will be casting his vote for Obama but understands he will have to wait for results.
“It’s not going to happen immediately, maybe not even in his presidency,” said Amberslie. “The change is what we’re moving towards.”