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For Unemployed New Yorkers, No Recovery in Sight

Over 10 percent of New Yorkers, nearly 425,000, are unemployed and looking for work, the highest rate in the three decades that records have been kept. The city's jobless numbers are expected to stay at 10 percent or above through next year. And that doesn't include those who have given up looking for work. Jobless New Yorkers on both ends of the economic spectrum say they see no recovery in sight.

Duane Randall, 27, lives in a low-income part of Brooklyn. He hasn’t had a regular full-time job for five years. The first year he was out of work, he said, he put in applications at scores of businesses and stores.

“To no avail, nobody called me, follow-up, nothing. Even if a place isn't hiring, I will still go and ask anyway, because you're not going to know. Some people probably just want to be selective and picky, and see who's determined to work,” he said.

Randall, a father of two, has survived on government aid, such as food stamps, and small jobs as a mover and handyman. He’s skilled as a builder, but can’t find a job in construction.

“You show me the frame, I will build your house out,” he said. “I know how to do electrical work, plumbing work, sheetrock, plastering, woodwork. You know, I have so many skills I can't use that are a necessity. Every day they're building houses, but there's just nobody employing."

Marketing and fundraising expert Stephanie Forman was laid off a year ago.
Marketing and fundraising expert Stephanie Forman was laid off a year ago.

A few kilometers away, in an upscale Manhattan neighborhood, Stephanie Forman, 45, is also struggling. A year ago, she was a highly-paid marketing expert and non-profit fundraiser. Now she's living on occasional consulting jobs and using up her retirement savings while she searches for another job.

“Basically every day, I try to just look to see what companies are hiring,” she said. “I check a lot of blogs, news postings, to see what companies are doing well, what companies have come out with a new product, see who's working there, see if I know somebody. And often you don't hear back from people and need to be very persistent. And there's a fine line between being persistent and getting under somebody's skin, where they're not going to see you."

Forman attended a Manhattan job fair recently that drew hundreds of other unemployed professionals. She went even though she doubted there were many solid jobs being offered.

“I’ve found from going to a few job fairs that a lot of companies that are here really don’t have a lot of jobs open,” she said. “There is a false sense in our country that the job market is getting better. Just because companies are starting to post jobs doesn't mean they're hiring people. And I can tell from my years of experience in business, I've never seen in 25 years a job market like this."

“People come up with ideas like oh, since you’re not working, why don’t you work in retail, or work in a restaurant or bar? I’ve seen most restaurants in my neighborhood close. I see people losing their jobs who were making very little money. Part-time jobs in retail stores used to be a quick way to earn a buck. Even over the holidays they weren’t hiring.”

Still, she says, there's no option but to keep looking. “I just keep moving forward. Not having a job and not having an income are not reasons enough for me not to continue to move forward,” she said.

Duane Randall is trying to move forward, too. He recently applied for a temporary job with a federal agency, the Census Bureau.

“I heard about the test, and said, let me give it a shot, and I passed. I’m very excited about it. It actually pays very well. It's a part-time job - I think it's only for about four or five months out of the year. But hey, you know, you're working,” he said.

Stephanie Forman also had good news recently: a part-time marketing job came through. It’s a start. She’ll combine it with her job search and the unpaid consulting work that she does for charitable organizations. She’s also considering starting a small business. Forman says the important thing is to keep working, to be ready and prepared for the next opportunity.