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Susan Page

Finding Work, Workers Tough

In the midst of a dreadful jobs market, we’ve just taken a baby step into the daunting world of hiring again. After the 2008 economic sag, my husband Jerry and I decided to do the administrative work in our small business ourselves. To say that the “present staff” (us) has under-performed would be a gross understatement.

We were surprised at how many jobs there are actually available. Not surprising, though, is that many are offering part-time jobs with short-term contracts. It’s undeniable that small business owners are nervous about the uncertainty of taxes, Obamacare costs, and the even bigger issue: People aren’t buying things. It takes a lot of bad news to squelch the usual optimism of entrepreneurs.

For the job searcher it’s a bucking bronco ride, even with Hawaii’s relatively low unemployment rate of 5.3 percent. Today, with email, most employers don’t want people calling or showing up at the office like in the days before communicating online (I can barely remember!). An ad might say, “Small business looking for a salesperson with inside sales experience … Only accepting resumes via email.” When the resume goes out into the world wide web of workers, it may just get lost in the impersonal shuffle.

Without much information, it’s harder to frame a targeted cover letter, which, in my humble opinion, should always accompany a resume. Resume templates can be copied almost verbatim, just pasting in personal information, so unless a writing sample is requested during the interview, how can you determine if the potential employee can write well – a major requirement for most administrative jobs?

Most people, regardless of political sides, fret about the jobs situation for Americans. We’re all affected by it. Having fewer people working keeps money out of the marketplace and reduces our government tax base, leaving less money to spend on crucial services and valid infrastructure. Costs often go up on basic goods and services, and here in Hawaii, where solutions always appear in the form of spending our money, taxes are sure to rise.

Sometimes reported unemployment figures are hard to interpret. Political spin can also slant the numbers. For March and April, the Department of Labor reported jobs up at a bland but respectable number, so the president grabbed the chance to crow. But just last week, in early June, according to a USA Today report, the jobs numbers released to the press for those two months have been revised downward by 49,000 jobs. In May, 642,000 new Americans started looking for a job, but only 69,000 new jobs were created, the worst showing in a year. In two months will those bad numbers look even worse?

The underemployment rate of 14.8 percent, which rose in May, tells a more accurate story because it includes the discouraged who quit looking for a job, part-time workers looking for full-time work, plus all the unemployed. We often hear of jobs added, but some news reports don’t include jobs lost. In May, manufacturing added jobs, but construction companies cut 28,000 jobs, and 9,000 jobs were cut from the leisure and hospitality industry, which of course may portend poorly for us here in Hawaii.

On a positive note, our foray into hiring was an inspiring experience. We met several intelligent and motivated folks. My advice to job seekers? Don’t stay too long at the interview. The longer I can probe, the more revealing the interview. Sometimes that works in his or her favor – most times not.

And at the bottom of one young woman’s resume, it said, “Have dependable transportation.” That was a plus. We hired her.

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