Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Booming Job Market Still Closed to Some among Them Are Workers Who Won't Relocate

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Booming Job Market Still Closed to Some among Them Are Workers Who Won't Relocate

Article excerpt

Unemployment has dipped to its lowest level in a quarter-century. But don't tell that to Wilfredo Soto or Roberto Fernandez.

Soto, an unemployed chemical worker in this lunch-pail city, lost his factory job in November when the company "downsized." Despite knocking on doors for eight months, he has not been able to find work to match his skills.

Fernandez, a black teen-ager in Brooklyn, N.Y., can find jobs in his neighborhood, but most are entry-level fast-food positions - something he does not want.

Soto and Fernandez represent two segments of the work force - inner-city teens and people with the wrong skills in the wrong place - who remain unemployed despite one of the strongest labor markets in decades.

a Some 6.8 million people remain on the unemployment rolls, even though the national unemployment rate hovers near 5 percent. Many are people, like Soto, who lost manufacturing jobs in plant shutdowns and do not want to move. Others do not have the necessary skills or education to get jobs in an increasingly high-tech economy. Still others will not work for $5 or $6 an hour.

"If you can't find a job in this economy, you may be holding out for wages higher than the market can provide," said Audrey Freedman, a labor economist based in New York.

The job market remains particularly stubborn for black teen-agers. In June, the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 32.7 percent of all black teen-agers were out of work, compared to 14.5 percent of the white teens. A Department of Labor fact sheet published last year blamed lower levels of schooling, the tendency to work in jobs that get laid-off first, and "the likelihood of a greater degree of discrimination in the workplace."

The discrimination has a cooling effect on youngsters' aspirations. Young blacks often do not feel they can trust white employers, said Lewis Howard, a retired professor who works with young people in in Brooklyn. "You find they don't wish to participate in the white world . . . they would rather see if they could make it on the streets," he said.

In New York, a lot of frustrated black teen-age job hunters end up at the Crown Heights Service Center, a social services agency in Brooklyn. …

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