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Job Seekers in Poor Section of Los Angeles Struggle to Find Work


LOS ANGELES - The U.S. unemployment rate remains high, at 8.2 percent, and in some parts of the country, the jobless numbers are even worse. The unemployment rate in California is nearly 11 percent, and the rate in some cities is much higher. In one hard-hit section of Los Angeles, many are seeking work, and a few are finding it.

Hundreds turned out at a recent career fair at the Los Angeles Mission, a charity that serves the poor and homeless in the run-down section of the city called Skid Row.

Some recently lost their jobs, including Ethiopian immigrant Becky Woude. She was a social worker at a shelter for abused women, but the agency lost its government funding.

“So I am looking for a job now. Anything. I can do anything in fact because I have to work. I have to pay my bills and I need money,” Woude said.

Getting by is not easy without a full-time job, says job seeker Anthony Alexander. He is looking for work in customer service, but says he learns easily and can do anything.

“I found day jobs. A week here, a week there, something like that, but as far as full-time employment, no. And I want full-time employment,” Alexander said.

The U.S. jobless rate remains stubbornly high. Only 69,000 jobs were created in May, the fewest in a year. Yet more than 20 companies were at the career fair and some of them are hiring, says Los Angeles Mission president Herb Smith.

“This year, we have more employers that actually have jobs as opposed to just taking resumes, so that does indicate a little bit of a turnaround,” Smith said.

One employer who needs workers, Jon Murga of Fresco Community Market, has found one-third of his staff among the unemployed and homeless who have undergone skills training at the L.A. Mission. He says even with today's poor economic climate, his business is good and he wants to expand.

“I think it takes a lot of courage, a lot of strength and tenacity in today's market to do so, but I think you create your own future,” Murga said.

One man who found a job at the community market, assistant deli manager Ivan Perez, says many on Skid Row just need a chance.

“There are a lot of people down there that have got a lot of skills, but they just have not been given the opportunity or a chance to shine,” Perez said.

But the job market is still tight. Employer Jon Murga will screen hundreds of applications for the few workers he needs, and people still out of work face tough competition in a shrunken job market.

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