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Jobless not in it alone

Published 6:52pm Saturday, October 19, 2013

The local effects of the nation’s anemic recovery from the Great Recession were clear on Friday as hundreds of people lined up around the Salvation Army’s Bank Street area headquarters building for a chance to put their résumés in front of representatives from 14 area employers and employment agencies.

The job fair was an initiative of the Suffolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority, with support from the Salvation Army, Dress for Success and Suffolk’s Workforce Development Center, which combined their efforts to provide help with professional attire, résumé critiques and access to a food giveaway and diet tips from the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia.

Suffolk Public Schools, QVC, Reliance Staffing, Target Distribution, MCH Consultants, Southerland Global, Hampton Roads Transit, the city of Suffolk, AppleOne, Massimo Zanetti, Vitex, Murphy-Brown and Professional Home Health all participated in the event.

Michael Smith, a resident services coordinator at the housing authority, said the organization decided to sponsor the event after sensing the demand for jobs. “We expected at least 200, but I think that number may have doubled,” he said.

Those waiting in line expressed frustration with job searches that had gone, in some cases, for years without resulting in substantive employment. “You have to try to compete with people with degrees,” said Kesha Boone, whose job search has been ongoing for “two or three years” while she has taken freelance work as a beautician. “They want the utmost experience. It’s a matter of just continuing applying.”

Boone’s positive attitude in the midst of so much rejection is exemplary, and her efforts to provide for herself even in unemployment are a model for those looking for jobs.

Boone and the hundreds of others who stood in line Friday to submit their résumés provide evidence that there is still far to go in this long economic recovery, especially here in Suffolk, where the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that unemployment had reached 6.5 percent in July. The event itself — and the companies and organizations that participated in it — are evidence that Suffolk’s unemployed people are not in it alone.

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