Arizona job market: Patience and persistence

March 28, 2012

The state will release February’s unemployment numbers later this morning. Arizona’s jobless rate in January stood at 8.7 percent; that’s lower than both the month before, and January of last year. But, as KJZZ’s Mark Brodie reports, that good economic news isn’t reaching everyone.

MARK BRODIE: Keith Rosenbaum used to be the guy who’d pre-wire burglar alarms, speakers or other low voltage home entertainment systems in your new house. The 58-year old had been in the business for decades, but now hasn’t had a full-time job in more than four years.

KEITH ROSENBAUM: When home building started taking a dive, jobs just started getting eliminated, and my company, which was pretty big at the time had to start laying off, and I was involved in the first layoff.

BRODIE: Rosenbaum took the full 99 weeks of unemployment, gets food stamps, and rents a room in a friend’s house. He makes some money playing drums in a Beatles tribute band, generally maxing out at $400 a month.  He’s still looking for work; Rosenbaum says he’s applying for all kinds of jobs, but says he’d like to stay in his field.

ROSENBAUM: There is some hiring going on, but they’re only subcontracting. You have to have your own vehicle and ladders and your own tools and stuff and I’m just not set up to do that. I don’t have the money to try to set myself up to do that. It’s a catch-22.

BRODIE: But for the frustration Rosenbaum and others feel, some Arizonans have felt the relief of finding work.

CINDY HATCH: The emotion I was feeling was I was happy, of course, to get a job.

BRODIE: That’s Cindy Hatch. She’s the Director of Development and Operations at Maggie’s Place, which provides housing for pregnant women. She started that job in mid-January, after being out of work for more than a year.

HATCH: It was discouraging. But when you think about the magnitude of people who are applying for those positions, and everything that’s coming in to those companies, I mean, they’re doing a word search on your resume, and if they don’t catch a match, you know you’re not going to get called in.

BRODIE: Hatch had spent the past ten years working in finance for manufacturing companies. Once she got laid off, she says she applied to at least three jobs a week for the 15 months she was out of work. She also started attending seminars sponsored by Career Connectors - a local organization that brings workers and potential employers together. Hatch is now on its Board of Directors. She says the state’s economy is moving in the right direction - slowly, but that bigger firms still don’t seem to be hiring.

HATCH: Those companies are still experiencing layoffs, and I think as long as that continues, those people are going to trickle into the workforce, and those are the people that are now competing against each other.

BRODIE: Hatch says she never doubted she’d get a job, and knew how to look for one. But not everyone at Career Connectors is as confident. Jessica Pierce started the company three years ago, and says its niche is professionals.

JESSICA PIERCE: The biggest thing we hear over and over is that ‘I’ve never had to look for a job, I’ve always been employed. And, I’ve been there 10, 20, 30, 40 years or more, and all of a sudden, I’m frozen. I don’t have the skills or the information or the knowledge on how to get back to work because I’ve never been in that place where I’ve had to get back to work.’

BRODIE: Pierce says Career Connectors generally gets about 500 people per month to its six seminars. She says even though there’s been some good economic news recently, people still feel left behind. Keith Rosenbaum is still optimistic he’ll find a job. But he says his four years of unemployment have gone by quickly.

ROSENBAUM: Eventually, something will happen, and I just kind of have to wait it out, and just keep pushing forward. I feel torn down, but I’m not gonna give up.

BRODIE: Rosenbaum says he thinks back to how easy it was in his 20s and 30s to lose a job and then find a new one right away. And then, he says…

ROSENBAUM: It’s just different now.

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