Turning Point

Maryland jobs are on the road to recovery, according to the most recent figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but many members of the Jewish community are not feeling much relief.

“People with good, solid career histories in fields that are robust are getting jobs more easily,” said Tracey Paliath, director of economic services at Jewish Community Services. But, she said, “most people 50 and over who have been unemployed would find cold comfort in those numbers.”

The state of Maryland added 9,700 jobs in the month of August, data released last month by the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed, bringing the job base for Maryland back to a level it has not seen since the recession began.

Of those jobs added in August, 4,900 were private-sector jobs, the highest number of jobs added to the private sector in the month since 2007. Most of these private-sector jobs were added to the professional and business services sector.

JCS provides assistance for those seeking employment in any field, at any level, by offering clients access to career coaching, vocational rehabilitation, interview preparation programs and resume and cover letter help.

The job market is extremely competitive right now, despite what gains have been made, said Paliath.

From what she has seen, the time it usually takes for an adult 50-years-old or older to find a job is about twice as long as someone younger, and the situation for recent college graduates is not much better.

“They’re opting to go to graduate school, if they can get in, or they’re continuing with their college employment,” said Paliath. “All of that is perfectly fine, there’s nothing wrong with it, but it’s probably not what they majored in or went to school for.”

In the worst of the recession, she said she saw a sense of hopelessness permeate the lives of those she helped look for unemployment. Many even gave up the search altogether.

“They get discouraged,” she said.

For those close enough to 62, the youngest age at which one can receive Social Security retirement benefits, the plan sometimes changes from job hunting to reorganizing finances to stretch until they can begin retirement benefits.

For even more people, the jobs they are able to find are far different from those that they lost to the recession. Paliath saw many JCS clients accept commission-only or part-time work, an adjustment that can be difficult for someone who has grown accustomed to a regular paycheck.

At the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development, Director Karen Sitnick agreed that the number of people seeking help is still high. More than 23,000 local people logged on to the area’s online job resource channels over the past year.

However, Sitnick said she has seen some hints of improvement in the local job market. For one, the number of companies coming to the office seeking help with mass layoffs has dropped off recently. Meanwhile, the number of companies reaching out to the Office of Employment Development looking for trained employees has risen again after slumping over the past few years.

With the arrival of Horseshoe Casino approaching and other opportunities in construction on the horizon, Sitnick says there is a sense of optimism at the office among both career counselors and job seekers.

“It’s not as doom and gloom,” she said. “I think we’re all feeling we’re really moving in the right direction.”

At The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, President Marc Terrill said the local Jewish community took a major hit during the recession. The organization saw long-time donors begin to turn to it for financial and job assistance. “While we have seen some recovery in the community, we still have people hurting,” Terrill said. “We are fortunate that Jewish Baltimore continues to rise to the occasion during times of great need. We saw it in 2008 and it is still in play today.”

JCS’s Paliath agreed that there have been some signs of hope, even among those who were able to hang on to their jobs through the recession.

“Before, everyone was frozen,” she said. “I think now, people are open to looking around and exploring possibilities. They’ve moved beyond the paralysis of just being thankful that they have a job.”

But, she said, the improvements in some areas do not necessarily equate to good news across the board. She noted that there are still many people who either lack experience or are on the older end of the workforce who continue to wait for the good fortune to extend their way.

For them, said Paliath, “it’s going to continue to be some time before things noticeably improve.”

HOW YOU CAN HELP
Jewish Community Services is an agency of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore. To make a donation to the annual campaign, visit associated.org/donate.

Heather Norris is a JT staff reporter — hnorris@jewishtimes.com

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