Jobs

Seeking Workers for the Slime Line -- Icicle Seafoods Returns to the AV

The work is not glamorous. It is repetitive, sometimes monotonous, smelly and hot. You are working for hours on end processing fish on what in the fishing industry is known graphically – but correctly - as the “slime line.” Things don’t get much any more exciting during your off duty hours either. Cell phone reception is basically nil and what down time you have, you will likely spend eating or sleeping.

In their effort to recruit more than 700 summer workers for fish-processing jobs in Alaska, HR staff from Icicle Seafoods want there to be no misconception about how these months will unfold.

“You don’t want to go up there with any preconceived notions that things are going to be better than they are, or that it’s an adventure,” said Annmarie Todd, Icicle Seafoods Director of Recruitment. “It’s just a job.”

But it’s a job that pays $8.75 per hour and $13.13 for overtime with meals, room and board provided. It’s a job that lots of people want, particularly those facing long term unemployment and harsh economic conditions in the Antelope Valley.

People like James, a client of JVS’ General Relief Opportunities of Work (GROW) program. James has worked a number of security jobs around the Southern California and Las Vegas areas. He has worked in shoe stores, hospitals and for Metrolink. Now he needs a more stable living situation, a better car and the ability to provide for his 6 year old son.

“I need the money, but I also just need something different to experience, something new,” said James following his interview during an Icicle job fair at Antelope Valley College. “The interview went well, and I know they’re going to call me. I’m ready to get my plane ticket and leave right now.”

“I definitely think there are some challenges, but I’m willing to overcome those challenges and try something new,” agreed Elesse, another GROW client who has had difficulty finding work as a certified medical assistant.  “It will be good to get out of the area. I don’t have anything lined up for this summer, so why not.”

In the summer of 2014, JVS Lancaster GROW program sent more than 50 workers to Icicle's facilities in Larsen Bay. The company was so impressed with their new workers that they have partnered again with JVS GROW, along with Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE), America’s Job Center of California, and L.A. County Department of Public and Social Services on recruiting events to be held throughout Los Angeles and the San Fernando and Antelope Valleys in April and May.

The fish processing positions both on boats and in land plants are entry level. Workers who return for multiple seasons and successfully complete their contracts can expect to get perks like better shifts and higher positions within what Todd calls the “slime line hierarchy.”

“When there’s no fish available, people will be called up and they’ll say, ‘Hey, do you want to clean the underside of this thing?” or “Do you want to go down to the engine room and count rags,’” says Todd. “ We want to keep our returning people and attract as many quality workers as we can. We are kind of an entry level company, and if people can complete a contract or two with us, we help them get jobs in the Bering Sea.”

Todd and Tammy French, Executive Vice President Human Resources/Organization Development for Icicle Seafoods, both raved about the workers who came out of the Antelope Valley. They were especially impressed by the work of the GROW team’s pre-screening and preparing of candidates. They expect to return to the Antelope Valley on a regular basis to recruit for summer and winter fishing and crab season.

“What's great about our partnership with JVS GROW is that your agency's mission and your values are all about helping people with their lives by getting meaningful work," added fellow Icicle Seafoods Recruiter Tammy French. "We are just excited to be the extension of that."

A New Life in Larsen Bay

There are places in Alaska that JVSWorks would like to visit. Larsen Bay – population around 100 – had not been on that list. No disrespect intended. Larsen Bay is situated up about 60 miles southwest of Kodiak and, unless wildlife viewing, birding and fishing is your bag, it doesn’t seem like there’s much to do in that probably quite beautiful part of the world. (JVSWorks is a proud and professed metropolitan city clicker). Based on recent events, however, JVSWorks would now very much like to check the place out in order to get a  first-hand glimpse of some of that fantastic scenery, find a place where they know how to cook up some salmon (which probably isn’t difficult to find) and meet some of the JVS clients from the General Relief Opportunities for Work (GROW)  in Lancaster.

Make that the employed GROW workers who, given how seriously they’re taking their work  cutting up salmon for Icicle Seafoods, might not have that much leisure time to spare.

GROW job developer Karla Ojeda and supervisor Edwin Rivas and forged a partnership that brought representatives of Seattle-based Icicle Seafoods down to Lancaster to recruit workers for the salmon season. The recruitment took place in late June with 200 potential workers interviewed and about 50 hired. The new workers quickly boarded a bus for Seattle, had their applications and drug tests processed and were put on boats bound for Larsen Bay to meet up with fishing and processing boats. Subsequently, GROW sent some additional workers from Lancaster up to work in Icicle Seafoods processing plants.  For the month of June, that boosted the GROW’s placement percentage at 43%

Because of circumstances in their lives, these are clients who  have experienced  considerable difficulty finding work locally in the Antelope Valley. Many have had run-ins with the law and now have prison records. Others have struggled with past addictions. Several were homeless. Nonetheless, the recruiters from Icicle Seafoods recognized in them solid potential workers.

“It’s a great opportunity for them,” said Rivas. “Their room and board is paid for. Basically, all they have to do is work and they can save their paychecks. Some have decided to move up there and start a new life.”

canningline
canningline

“The employer is very pleased,” he added. “One of the sea captains said that our workers are extremely clean and also extremely loud.”

The work is demanding, concedes Icicle Seafoods HR Manager Anne Marie Todd. When they packed for the trip, the new employees were told to bring compression socks because of the benefits and relief they provide from being on their feet for so long during their shift.

But as many of us know, nothing trumps a steady paycheck, particularly when you haven’t seen one in awhile.

“Some of those people got tears in their eyes when we offered them work,” said Todd. “This is an opportunity for them to get some money together and start things over.”

icicleseafoods2
icicleseafoods2

Icicle Seafoods will be back to Lancaster in September to recruit again for the crab season.

Check Marks the Spot – JVS’ PWLA

May 6, 2013 - There may be larger and more comprehensive job listing websites. If you’re reading this, then you’ve probably visited or been solicited by them:  “WE’VE SAVED YOUR SEARCH FROM TWO YEARS AGO. COME BACK TO US AND CHECK OUT THIS GREAT OPPORTUNITY IN TOLEDO, OHIO.” That’s about as much human contact as some of those bigger “bottomless pit” job sites will provide.

But for the personal touch, check marks the spot. We’re talking about the ginormous checkmark in the upper left hand corner that serves as the symbol for ParnossahWorks Los Angeles™ (PWLA), JVS’ job listings and job search website. http://www.parnossahworksla.org.

The site correctly calls itself a “gateway for job seekers and employers,” which is spot on. We hope PWLA – part of a network of JVS employment websites - routinely functions as a gateway to employment (for job seekers) and to outstanding new hires (for employees).

Kevin McDermott, a PWLA specialist for the past three years calls it a “boutique website.”

“We don’t have hundreds of jobs listed on the site,” says McDermott. “It was never meant to be CareerBuilder, but with CareerBuilder, nobody will ever call you or send you e-mails. You’ll get more individualized personal attention with PWLA.”

For the job seekers, the site is also a gateway to something quite valuable: the JVS WorkSource Center network which includes career counseling and our Business Services Division.

When a person registers with PWLA – free of charge, of course – he gets a personally generated e-mail reply inviting him to come to one of the WorkSource Centers and take advantage of all the available resources: job clubs, resume workshops, LinkedIn workshops, the list goes on.

According to WorkSource Center staff, the idea is to get people out of their house and into a place where like-minded people – who are also unemployed – can share experiences, tips and ideas. Let’s face it: job hunting can be a lonely endeavor. One can spend hours scrolling through listings across dozens of sites and, indeed, that’s how so many people conduct their job search. Because it can become frustrating and depressing, one of the services we offer is hope.

PWLA urges visitors to take that next step by registering not only on the site but also at a JVS WorkSource Center.  At the center, you will sign up for an orientation and take two one-hour classes – which are also free - such as resume writing and interview skills. Your next steps may include taking additional free classes, visiting a job club, listening to a motivational speaker or meeting with a staff member who might have a job lead.

If an opportunity presents itself that we feel you are qualified for, Business Services will submit your resume directly to an employer, possibly even placing a phone call on your behalf. Business Services advocates for our job seekers, making the process more personal and giving the job seeker the all-important “in.”  The employers who use the site are typically satisfied partners since they can count on JVS vetting candidates before forwarding resumes.

The listings themselves are updated several times weekly and often have positions that you won’t find on other sites. Entry level positions to six figure jobs and everything in-between…it’s all there, submitted directly by the employer and unedited.

And for good measure, the site also contains job seeking tips, cover letter and resume samples, and networking strategies. Visit and return often.

Check (mark) it out here!

Unwelcome Belt Tightening – Sequestration Cuts Affect California Unemployment

pamharris

There's some seriously unwelcome news out of Sacramento. On April 28, more than 400,000 out of work Californians will see a reduction of almost 18% (17.7%) in their weekly unemployment insurance (UI) benefits.

The culprit? That awful, shapeless beast known as the sequestration, according to the state Employment Development Department (EDD).

Federal extensions of UI run through the end of December. These new cuts will not affect the number of weeks that the unemployed will be eligible for benefits (currently at 26 with up to 47 weeks of federal extensions). In other words, the unemployed will continue to receive benefits, but the amount of the check will decrease by an average of about $42 per week.

"We understand that Unemployment Insurance benefits are often their only shield against economic disaster and that cuts in those benefits can be very challenging," said EDD Director Pam Harris in a prepared statement which is also already the understatement of the year. "But we want to get the word out so that those relying on these federal benefits can at least prepare for the reductions."

UI recipients should start receiving official mailed notices from EDD about these looming cuts. There are a selection of groups for whom these cuts will not apply including recently unemployed workers who are receiving regular state-funded unemployment benefits; recipients of training extension benefits under the California Training Benefit program; and recipients of the Trade Readjustment Assistance extended benefits.

That 400,000 represents the number of people in California who have been without work for six months or longer, and that number could shoot up pretty quickly. The EDD news release notes that "hundreds of thousands more" Californians could be impacted by the reduced benefits before the end of the year as they become eligible for federal extension benefits. More than one million Californians have already exhausted all of their available UI benefits as of April 8. In February, California's 9.6% unemployment rate tied with Mississippi and Nevada for highest in the nation.

It gets worse.

EDD anticipates the potential loss of more than $30 million in federal funding for the administration of UI over the next 15 months. On top of what they cite as "significant underfunding" by the federal government, EDD now says that the number of UI representatives available to help clients will be substantially reduced. Meaning, presumably, that worried or angry clients will have no human being to direct their anger toward.

The EDD also expects to lose $3.3 million in federal funding that supports job search assistance for job seekers at "One-Stop Career Centers throughout the state" and a minimum $15 million hit to Workforce Investment Boards which provide job training throughout the state.

Read more on the EDD website

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39 Smiling Graduates, 11 Financial Partners, Dozens of Stories

There is something so amazingly "Yeah, I did it!" satisfying about clutching a diploma at a graduation. This holds true whether the achievement is the completion of high school, college, graduate school, or specialized training. When someone presents you with the piece of paper that bears your name and affirms your accomplishments, you are flying high. One can easily see that pride, relief and confidence in the faces of JVSLA BankWork$

graduates. After spending three days a week for eight rigorous weeks learning all about cash handling, product sales and all the elements that prepare you for an entry-level career in banking, our graduates are grinning ear-to-ear when they get their certificates of completion.

Sure, a lot of them are nervous; they've got friends and family in the audience, and they know that an actual job interview with representatives of JVS' partnering banks awaits them immediately after the graduation ceremony. Those giant smiles -- as much as their resumes -- could be their calling card to a new job, a new life. In fact, when they introduce their graduates to the audience -- which always includes the finance industry recruiters who will be conducting the interviews later -- BankWork$™ instructors Lisa Meadows, Maria Zuniga and Alese Pedro invariably refer to the qualities that sets their graduates apart.

"Diana's been working at Ross for six years. She got her job almost immediately when she came to this country," said Pedro, introducing graduate Diana Gharibian during the presentation honoring BankWork$™ 32nd graduating class. "She was shopping at Ross and they said, 'You have a great smile, a great personality. Do you want to come work for us?' They actually offered her a job because they recognized that beautiful smile would translate to great customer service. Diana is fluent in Armenian and Farsi and she will be an asset to any bank that hires her."

In these introductions, the BankWork$™ team highlights the graduate's skills: whether it's their determination to overcome tough odds, a college degree, multiple languages spoken, cash-handling skills, sales experience and, of course, a winning personality and great smile. By being accepted into the program -- and certainly by completing it -- our graduates are already marketing themselves successfully. But the BankWork$™ staff tries to give them each a little extra endorsement in the send-off since their potential employers are listening attentively and taking notes.

In a way, the graduation must be a little bit bittersweet. Our most recent class -- which trained at The Expo Center near downtown LA and at ORT College in Van Nuys -- had 39 people, all of whom have become "like family" over the course of the eight-week course. We want to see all 39 of these new family members hired on the spot by our partnering financial institutions.

They may be smiling big at graduation, but many of those 39 graduates overcame some significant barriers to earn their certificates. We learn about their achievements, but also of setbacks: layoffs, long periods of unemployment, dead-end jobs and the challenge of being a single parent to young children, even homelessness.

"I was pretty much just getting by," says Stephen Gallego, a former employee of In 'N Out Burger who has put aside dreams of writing music to start a career in the banking industry. "I realized that life is a lot more difficult than just going to school and having a minimum wage job. I was applying for other jobs and people weren't guaranteeing me anything. Things were really tough and I needed to get the ball rolling."

Gallego, who was tabbed to deliver the graduation speech at the most recent graduation, said that his classmates had also experienced hardship in their journey to BankWork$™. Although he has a Master's degree which he earned in his native Iran, Arvin Aloumian couldn't find work in information technology. Dan Nguyen spent seven years working at Macy's to put herself and five siblings through college. Her mother died six months after the family immigrated from Vietnam.

"It's been very hard for me working part-time and going to school," says Ngueyn, the oldest of her family. "This is exactly what I've been looking for."

"You hear incredible stories when you talk to classmates," says Gallego. "One student said she had two kids at home and she needed a real career to support them. Another gentleman told us he had $6 in his pocket for the next month and he's just hoping for the best. You hear everyone's story, and you can relate to what they're experiencing."

"We're all in this economy together," he adds. "We know we can be successful and we know we're not going to be complacent. We're going to take those extra steps to succeed."

Spoken like someone who, thanks to a unique training program, feels like he's ready to take on the world.

stephengallegos
stephengallegos

Jobs Numbers, Unemployment Rate Holding Steady

The U.S. economy added 157,000 jobs in January and the unemployment rate rose .1% to 7.9% according to the just-released data from the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. We’ve been hovering around 8.0% unemployment since September of  2012.

Nothing so very exciting about “holding steady.”

The nation may be adding jobs, but nowhere near at the pace needed to get us back to where we were pre-recession. There are still 12.3 million people out of work, 4.7 million of whom have been out of work for 27 weeks or longer and are therefore categorized as long-term unemployed. Consider also the 8 million people who are working part-time either because their hours were cut back or because they couldn’t find full-time work. The numbers for both the long-term unemployed and involuntary part-time workers are relatively unchanged from the previous survey a month ago.

These are people who we try to help at our JVS WorkSource Centers, by the way.

DOLlogo
DOLlogo

Another bit of interesting information nestled in the BLS/jobs numbers was the fact that all durations of unemployment dropped sharply in January with the average spell falling by 2.8 weeks. Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) attributes the drop-off to the shortening of the extended unemployment insurance benefits following the fiscal cliff deal.

“Since workers are required to look for jobs to get benefits, it appears that many of the unemployed stopped looking for work when their benefits expired and therefore are no longer counted as unemployed,” Baker writes. “In this way, shortening the period of unemployment benefits can lower the unemployment rate.”

When Real Life Trumps the Movie Biz

prettywoman
prettywoman

Friday, January 26 -

I won't lie. I loved my career as a publicist in the movie business. Every single minute of it. I worked for two decades doing something I had always dreamed of, unable to imagine any other way of life. Sometimes my day at the office was George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino battling vampires in From Dusk Till Dawn and some days it was Bob Dylan and a stunning ensemble cast creating the alternate universe of Masked and Anonymous.

In one particularly eventful year, I spent the spring with Richard Gere and Kim Basinger in the Louisiana swamps for No Mercy, the summer with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jesse Ventura in the jungles of Puerto Vallarta for Predator and ended up in the desert outside L.A. with Mel Gibson and Danny Glover for the first Lethal Weapon. I feel privileged to have traveled widely and been a part of films that became cultural phenomena like Pretty Woman, or tackled divisive social issues like Dead Man Walking.

I had an exhilarating stint as a studio VP when the great producers David Puttnam and David Picker ran Columbia Pictures and finished things up as National Director of Communications for the Screen Actors Guild, blending the two things I truly love most -- Hollywood and politics.

As national spokesperson for SAG, I got to advocate for the moral and economic rights of performers; to address First Amendment protections vs. personal privacy with Michael J. Fox and Paul Reiser before the House Judiciary Committee in DC in the advent of the tabloid media explosion; to coordinate with the Directors Guild of America on the first major study of the economic impact of runaway production; to sit on a committee with blacklisted writer Paul Jericho creating an industry-wide event recognizing the 50th Anniversary of the Hollywood Blacklist; to work backstage at the SAG Awards.

But life changes. A difficult divorce and a small child left me needing a more stable and predictable work life with regular hours and a chance to make all of my son's Little League games. I answered a job posting at a nonprofit called JVS Los Angeles with half-hearted enthusiasm and accepted their offer to become head of communications with trepidation, figuring it would be a minor pit stop before I got back to the world where I belonged.

Ten years later I'm still here.

The rewards of nonprofit work can be elusive. For much of the time, the hours have turned out to be just as long, the demands as grueling and the pace as exhausting. Yet there is something transcendent about doing work that directly impacts the life of another human being -- work that actually changes the trajectory of a person's experience from despair to hope.

And there is something else that struck me recently at a graduation ceremony for a remarkable job training program JVS created called BankWork$™. We offer primarily low-income, inner-city adults the chance to participate in a free eight-week course that prepares them for entry level jobs in the banking industry. This is only possible because generous donors, including the City and County of L.A. and the major banks that support the program, underwrite all the costs.

So a young man named Terrence, who has been working two minimum wage jobs to support his family and still needs food stamps to make ends meet, can graduate in a suit and tie in front of an auditorium full of corporate executives and bank recruiters waiting to interview him and just maybe open the door to a new life.

But here's the bit that hit me so hard. I was watching our two inspiring BankWork$™ instructors -- Lisa Meadows and Maria Zuniga -- introduce each of their students as they stepped up one at a time to receive their certificates.

"This is Margarita," says Lisa, with her arm around a shy, beaming graduate.

"She grew up in the foster care system in 12 different group homes. She has worked as a cashier at McDonald's since high school. To pay her bills, she took a second job working nights at a cleaning service. She has excellent cash handling and customer service skills. She speaks Spanish fluently, is a single mother and dreams of a professional career so she can make a better life for her daughter. She had perfect attendance in our class and always stayed afterwards to talk to us about what she could do to improve. We know she will make an excellent bank teller."

And all of a sudden, someone who is invisible to most of us every day becomes the center of attention, possibly for the first time in her life.

How many times have I been served at McDonald's and not seen someone like Margarita? How many times have I passed a young woman just like her coming into the building at night pushing a cart of cleaning supplies while I headed out the door for home?

This is the magical gift of BankWork$™ and all of JVS's programs that offer people a lifeline out of a dead end job or long term unemployment or over some other seemingly insurmountable barrier into a future full of possibility.

When I look back at my career, I am grateful to have had my moment in the world of art and entertainment. To have contributed to an industry that can impact and uplift millions of people was a powerful and profound gift.

But I have gained something else by working for a nonprofit and laboring side by side with the unsung heroes of our workforce development industry. I have been moved and humbled by the passion and commitment of the job coaches, case managers, social workers, rehabilitation counselors and countless others who come to work every day in the hope that their efforts will give someone like Margarita the resources to navigate the path to a better future for her family. To change the direction of her life.

In the end, maybe that is just as powerful and profound. Maybe even more.

Katherine Moore is the VP Communications for nonprofit JVS Los Angeles. She is a former film publicist, was a Vice President at Columbia Pictures and served as National Director of Communications for the Screen Actors Guild.

Flowers and an Unsigned Card

Angelica Generoso

Shortly after the start of 2013, a bouquet of flowers in a lovely vase arrived at the offices of JVS Los Angeles (JVSLA) addressed to Angelica Generoso. The arrangement came with a card that was not signed and, no, this was not an early Valentine's Day salvo from a secret admirer. As beautiful as those blooms were, the message on the card was far more telling:

"Thank you for believing in me even though sometimes I didn't. I will make you my lucky charm for the new year!"

Since August of 2012, Generoso has been the program manager for JVSLA's HealthWorks, one of the agency's signature training programs that prepares low income adults to work as certified nurse assistants (CNAs), the first step on the health care career ladder. Eligible students enroll in the free, six-week training program which gives them intensive classroom and clinical training and prepares them to take the California license exam.

The flower-sender, it was quickly determined, was a recent HealthWorks graduate named Derrick, who, after completing his training, had found employment in a rehabilitation center with Generoso's help.

It took about six weeks following his completion of HealthWorks for Derrick to get that job. That may not seem like a long time in this economy, but it was an eternity for Derrick. The man was an extremely hard worker, a go-getter. After being unemployed for 18 months he'd gone on General Relief, but he considered his welfare check a temporary measure. He was the only one who showed up for his eligibility interview in a suit and always arrived early to class despite a long and difficult commute. Derrick hopes one day to become a registered nurse (RN). During the six weeks he was still job hunting, he worked in a scrap yard to make ends meet.

"He is the type of person who was not going to sit around and not earn money," said Generoso. "For his first two weeks on his new job, he clocked in at like 95 or 100 hours. He's very determined."

Derrick was correct in his assessment of Generoso's faith in his abilities. She and her team followed up on leads and got lucky in pitching Derrick right when a new rehab facility had a need. Generoso considers herself "the cheerleader" for Derrick and for all her HealthWorks students, helping them navigate through the program and then encouraging them to keep submitting their resumes and never lose hope.

But this wasn't all luck and timing. It was Derrick who did all the hard work: showing up for the class sessions, putting in the effort to pass the course, earning his CNA certification and then applying for and thriving in his new job. Nobody at JVSLA earned the job for him. We just helped push the door open.

JVSLA's tagline -- "Building better lives. One job at a time" -- is plenty eloquent, but the agency can't accomplish its mission unless our clients roll up their sleeves and help with the construction! Through our training programs, career services, educational assistance, WorkSource Centers and support networks, we take great pride in giving people the skills and resources they need to help themselves. In 2012, JVSLA assisted 30,000 Angelenos.

Thank you gestures like the one made by Derrick are deeply appreciated, but we don't expect them. When they come to JVSLA, many of our clients are facing dire personal and social circumstances. Some are homeless or come from broken families, have disabilities or have exhausted all their resources. Even when you think you have hit a personal bottom, it can be extremely difficult to ask for or accept help. More than assistance, our clients want new and improved circumstances. And once we have helped them reach that goal, many of them quietly move on with their new lives. Others write us emails or stay in touch, calling their caseworkers to report on their progress.

Still others remember what it took to overcome hardship and, once their circumstances have improved, donate time, money or expertise to JVSLA so that we can help other clients, "paying it forward," if you will.

Others send flowers and unsigned cards.

"I was really touched, said Generoso, "but I really do try to be there for my students, for all of them."

As do we all at JVSLA. Every day. One person. One job at a time.

Unemployment Renewed for 2013

Amidst the celebration and hand-wringing of the 11th hour year-end tax compromise avoiding the Fiscal Cliff came some news that should be welcome to some 400,000 unemployed Californians. 2012 ran out. Their unemployment insurance didn’t.

Benefits will continue through December of 2013 with no reductions. There are no extensions either, but those who are unemployed can continue to file for UI at any one of four tiers and receive benefits for up to 73 weeks total.

Federal extensions began in California in 2008 and Californians have received more than $40 billion in unemployment insurance over the past four years.

The reasons why this extension is a good thing are, let’s face it, rather obvious. This is true whether you work for a nonprofit like JVS that deals with the long-term unemployed or whether you know someone who is out of work.

Way back in November, JVS Works encouraged readers to get behind the campaign by unemployedworkers.com to lobby Congress for an extension.

For now, at least, that particular bullet has been dodged. Now we’ll step out of the way and let you learn more from the California Employment Development Department (EDD) which has an ever-evolving web page on this ever-evolving subject.

Unemployment Drops, 146,000 new Jobs Added for November

Friday, Dec. 7 -- Now that the campaign season is over, even the rosiest, most spin-focused optimist on the planet couldn't - and wouldn't - paint a pretty picture of the U.S. economy. That said, the newly released November Jobs Report from the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) looks better than it has in recent months.

Parts of it anyway. Like the part about unemployment dropping to 7.7%, the lowest it has been since December of 2008. 146,000 new jobs is nothing to sneeze at either.

Hurricane Sandy apparently had little effect on the job market, according to the BLS, and we can probably expect some sort of a bump in retail for December based on the influx of seasonal workers for the holidays (we'll get those numbers in January of 2013).

The problem, as numerous economists and employment trend watchers will tell you, is that the recovery isn't happening quickly enough. Part of the reason that the unemployment rate is dropping is not because tons of Americans are getting new jobs, but because they have left the labor force, i.e. have become discouraged and quit looking for jobs.

Writing in the Huffington Post, UC Berkeley Professor Robert Reich puts the number of discouraged labor force exit-ers at 350,000.

"The percent of the working-age population in jobs continues to drop -- now at 63.6 percent, almost the lowest in 30 years. Meanwhile, the average workweek is stuck at 34.4 hours," writes Reich, the former Secretary of Labor under President Clinton. "The reason the economy is still under-performing is demand is inadequate. Businesses won't create more jobs without enough customers. But consumers can't and won't spend because they don't have the money."

"Jobs must come first," he concludes. "Job creation must be our first priority."

The number of long-term unemployed (27 weeks or more out of work) - whose ranks we see steadily at our JVS WorkSource Centers -remain steady throughout the country:4.8 million in November, accounting for 40.1 percent of the total unemployed.

More from the BLS news release: "The civilian labor force participation rate declined by 0.2 percentage point to 63.6 percent in November, offsetting an increase of the same amount in October. Total employment was about unchanged in November, following a combined increase of 1.3 million over the prior 2 months. The employment-population ratio, at 58.7 percent, changed little in November."

"The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers), at 8.2 million in November, was little changed over the month. These individuals were working part time because their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find a full-time job.

"In November, 2.5 million persons were marginally attached to the labor force, essentially unchanged from a year earlier. These individuals were not in the labor force, wanted and were available for work, and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months. They were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey.

"Among the marginally attached, there were 979,000 discouraged workers in November, little changed from a year earlier. Discouraged workers are persons not currently looking for work because they believe no jobs are available for them.

"The remaining 1.5 million persons marginally attached to the labor force in November had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey for reasons such as school attendance or family responsibilities."

Dr. Seuss and the Economy

Thursday, November 29 - Do I have your attention? We don’t often see those two subjects paired, right?

It certainly caught my attention when I opened my copy of “Reconnecting to Work: Policies to Mitigate Long-Term Unemployment and Its Consequences” recently published by the Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.

The forward, written by celebrated economist Richard B. Freeman of Harvard University and the National Bureau of Economic Research, carried the provocative title “What Happened to Shared Prosperity and How to Get Them Back: A Seussian Perspective.”

"Seussian" as in Dr. Seuss, AKA Theodor Geisel, creator of The Cat in the Hat, The Lorax, Horton the Elephant and a whole lot of other characters you probably know from childhood.

Theodor Geisel who – even before his death in 1991 – was not generally recognized as a man who had perspective on the economy or jobs.

This doesn’t phase Freeman who attended a conference titled “Reconnecting to Work” at UCLA in 2011 as the United States was facing “9-10 percent unemployment and little sign of substantive job growth in the foreseeable future” and got to thinking. Using characters such as the Grinch, the Whos of Whoville, Horton , the Once-ler, Freeman very deftly – and quite humorously – sounds a warning that structural issues which he blames for the weak labor market are still prevalent. Yet he also declares “I am more optimistic than I was at the reconnecting to Work conference that the United States will come out of Wall Street’s financial implosion and the Great Recession with reforms that will restore full employment and prosperity for all citizens. I hope that economics and social science, and, more broadly, policy analysis, are up to the task of developing efficient programs to help attain this goal.”

It’s a great read and many of the essays assembled (written by scholars from around the world) are equally interesting. Particularly noteworthy for those of us who don’t study the minutae of economic trends is Chapter 4, “Causality in the Relationship between Mental Health and Unemployment” written by Timothy M. Diette and Arthur Goldsmith (both of Washington and Lee University), Darrick Hamilton (The New School) and William Darity Jr. (Duke University).

Diette et al find “extensive evidence of a direct link between mental health and involuntary joblessness; however, the possibility that poor emotional well-being leads to long periods of unemployment has left the question of causality unresolved. .. We find that long-term unemployment – but not short-term unemployment – promotes psychological distress among resilient persons.”

Learn more here.

Sobering Job Prospects for National Guard Soldiers

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Amidst the Black Friday madness, middle east conflict, Texas traffic pileup, USC vs. Notre Dame and all the other news that went down over Thanksgiving weekend, the Los Angeles Times shed an important spotlight on a sector of the military population hit particularly hard by the job crisis.

That would be soldiers and airmen and women from the National Guard, 20% of whom return home to unemployment. The percentage doubles the 10% unemployment for all veterans who have served since September 2001. Locally, unemployment stands at just under 17% for the California National Guard.

The fact that the nation has tapped National Guard officers and put them on the front lines for the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns means that our Guard and reserve officers have long since shed the “weekend warrior” designation. Guard soldiers and reserve officers can be called upon for peacekeeping duties abroad as well as to fulfill state obligations. And when a person can be summoned for duty at any time, that makes him or her a less valuable commodity in the eyes of potential employers.

There’s no reason for JVSWorks to restate all of Times reporter Alexandra Zavis’s excellent article (although, as always, we encourage you to read it). A shout out, certainly to the work being done by Major Ty Shepard whose state program Work for Warriors is looking to take down unemployment in California. Per Zavis’s article, Work for Warriors has “helped find work for more than 300 of the 1,789 members who have contacted them.”

That may seem like a low percentage and, indeed, nothing about this situation seems even slightly encouraging. The article concludes by referencing Guard members who are using their GI benefits to go to school and hopefully waiting out the recession and improve their employment prospects. They too might find themselves unemployed unless the economy picks up.

Learn more about Work for Warriors. Check out the job board at Vetjobs.com and learn about JVS’ Veterans First here.

Message to Congress: Renew Unemployment Benefits for 2013

At JVS, we try to end unemployment by helping people get back to work. Needless to say, this is no easy feat. Even with JVS' help, it takes quite a lot of time for an unemployed person - no matter how skilled - to find a new job.

While they search, many unemployed people rely on unemployment insurance to help get by. Take away unemployment and many people are in truly desperate straits. And many are keeping an eye on Washington to get an indication of how much longer their unemployment may last.

For all those readers out there who either collect unemployment or know someone who does, we ask you to write to Congress and urge them to renew the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) before the year runs out.

If EUC is not renewed, some 2 million workers receiving unemployment benefits will be cut off by December 29. Another one million will lose their benefits by the end of the first quarter of 2013.

Please read more about this at Unemployedworkers.org and click the green button to participate. The website will walk you through the process.

Happy National Career Development Day, Week, Month

On National Career Development Day (Wednesday), in the midst of National Career Development Week (Nov. 12-16) during National Career Development Month (November), we thought it might make sense to chat with a plumber… Just seeing if you were paying attention out there. No, actually, we needed to talk to a career counselor. And here at JVS, where we operate two full-service WorkSource Centers, we happen to know a few of those.

In fact, a few short blocks from where these words are being typed sits one of our veteran career counselors, Rachelle Cohn-Schneider, who has been in the career development field for more than 20 years including the last 12 at JVS. She also works part-time doing, yes, career counseling at Santa Monica College where she also teaches.

Cohn-Schneider graduated from the same Masters program in counseling at California State University, Northridge as JVS COO Claudia Finkel, although Cohn-Schneider followed a slightly different path to JVS. While doing an internship at Los Angeles Pierce College, Cohn-Schneider found herself drawn to the community college population. She ended up working at Pierce for 10 years doing career counseling, case management.

Concurrently, Cohn-Schneider had made a series of calls for informational interviews to organizations around the city inquiring about the possibility of doing in-house career counseling. She ended up at the Los Angeles Times, in the publication’s training and development department for 10 years. Cohn-Schneider split her time between Pierce College and the Times, eventually leaving Pierce for a similar position at Santa Monica College. After leaving the Times, she saw Finkel at a conference and was encouraged to come over to JVS.

“The work has changed a lot since I got into doing this,” says Cohn-Schneider who, over the years, has added technology and social media to her career-counseling toolbox. “When I was young and choosing my career, I thought, ‘I like people. I want to help people in the simplest form.’ Daily, I’m reminded that I make a difference in the lives of many people on a regular basis, and there’s nothing better than that.”

People crave variety in their work. This is exactly what Cohn-Schneider has in her profession where every client is a “different project, a different story.”  The stories are ever evolving as we work through the recession and clients are taking on different characteristics and personalities. Indeed, Cohn-Schneider now finds herself equal parts job coach as career counselor.

One thing that hasn’t changed much: the emotions of people who come to JVS looking for help.

“Often people come in here lost, scared and even angry for any number of reasons. There are a lot of emotions,” she said. “One of the things I think I’m really good at giving people a place to feel safe and trusted and have some resources they can leave with.”

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“I’m giving people a safety net, but I also have to have knowledge of our resources. Being here as a sounding board isn’t enough,” she adds. “JVS provides a lot of great resources that I can share. People leave here feeling really hopeful, and although I don’t do placement, I’m able to give people lot of hope for their future.”

Job-seekers can access all of JVS services at our two WorkSource Centers, 57575 Wilshire Blvd. Promenade 3 in West Hollywood (323) 904-4900 and at 13160 Mindinao Way, #240, Marina del Rey (310) 309-6000.

"Honor a hero and hire a vet"

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Monday, November 5 -- We couldn't have said it better ourselves. These are the words of Jessica Cheng, Program Coordinator for JVS Veterans First, spoken near the close of our JVS Veterans First 2012 video, now viewable on Youtube. In that 4 and a half minute video, we meet former Sergeant, U.S. Army Edward Chinchilla, first Lieutenant Rommel Cruz of the National Guard, former Private E-2., U.S. Army, Anthony Duke and former U.S. Navy Corpsman Alma Zavala

, all of whom give us a sense of the challenges our servicemen and women face when they return from overseas and face the transition to civilian life.

Job-hunting, for example...

Think it's tough for the rest of us? Consider the men and women who have the capability to perform extraordinary feats of bravery and heroism but who possess no piece of paper or degree that says they are qualified to perform these functions.

Recently Jon Stewart, host of "The Daily Show" on Comedy Central, threw this problem into the forefront of the national debate.

Well, at least he put it front and center for all of the "Daily Show's" fans to see so that we could all have a breather from election skewering. Stewart conducted a mock job interview of a couple of U.S. Army medics who have saved lives but who would probably have difficulty getting hired by any hospital in the country. On paper at least they're considered "not qualified."

In his post for Forbes.com, Paul Rieckhoff notes the recent Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report figures that post Sept. 11 vets have a 10% unemployment rate compared to 7.9% for the rest of the country.

Once they return stateside, vets face the extra bureaucratic level - and considerable financial debt - of having to retrain for what they already know how to do.

Zavala, a UCLA graduate, summed it up at our recent gala. "I found myself with extraordinary discipline with amazing military experience. I found myself, as many veterans out there, unemployed. The military taught me courage, courage under fire, I can face ... anything you can throw at me, I can handle it. What they didn’t teach me was courage after the fire as a civilian. How do you face that?"

We'll give you the entire transcript of Zavala's quite amazing speech as Veteran's Day approaches. Be sure to watch JVS Veterans First on Youtube.

And if you're ever in the position to do so, like our fearless Veterans First leader Jessica Cheng says: "honor a hero and hire a vet."

October Jobs Report Released

Friday, November 2 -- The news is good. No, the news is awful. We're moving forward. Uh-uh we're stuck in neutral. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has released its October data. Of course the data is hugely spin-worthy particularly with the Presidential election looming.

We've added jobs, and people have reentered the workforce or re-booted their job search energized by lat month's job numbers. 171,000 new non agricultural jobs were added in October. The civilian labor force grew 578,000 to 155.6 million.

But we still have 5 million Americans - classified as long-term unemployed - who have been unemployed for 27-weeks or longer. The long-term unemployed accounted for about 40% of the total unemployed.

Involuntary part-time workers (those who want to work full time but can't find an appropriate job) fell by 269,000 to 8.3 million. The 813,000 "discouraged" workers who have stopped job hunting is down from a year ago by 154,000.

Career sectors adding jobs or trending upward: professional and business services (51,000 new jobs in October) healthcare (31,000), retail (36,000) and construction (17,000).

NPR's morning edition reporter mentioned he had a difficult time finding someone to interpret the most recent data through a glass half-empty lens. Alan Krueger, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers spun positive from the White House.