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Career Centers See Wave of New Customers

26 November 2008 No Comment

By Tyler Sipe  — 

East Bay area job centers have seen a dramatic increase in the number of people utilizing their services in the past few months.

Tina Dodson, the director of Tri-Cities One-Stop Career Center in Newark, said foot traffic to the location has doubled in the past month, partly reflecting California’s dramatic half a percent increase in unemployment for October. 

The October state unemployment rate was at a 14-year high of 8.2 percent.  In Alameda County, it stood at 7.1 percent.

Dodson said the last big surge of interest in the career center was in 2002, following an influx of unemployed information technology workers.

Dodson said today’s demographic is made up of people from every age, every background and have held jobs from nearly every sector of the economy.

“Most people are on limited unemployment and they’re feeling desperate,” Dodson said.  “It’s the holidays and it adds to the pressure and the sense of panic.”

People entering the centers attend workshops on workforce preparation, perform job searches on the sites extensive computer data base, polish their resumes and strategize for new careers.

Dodson suggested people maintain an optimistic attitude while looking for a job, even if it takes more time to secure employment and a more competitive labor force.

“I think it is important for people to take care of themselves so they come across positively to perspective employers,” Dodson said.

The notable increase in foot-traffic at the one-stop career center in Newark is not isolated.  The sister branch in Fremont also recorded a rise in jobseekers, following a national trend.

According to the Labor Department, as reported in the New York Times, the nearly 2,943 one-stop career centers established by congress 10 years ago have seen a dramatic rise in the number of people using their services. 

This year alone, officials from the Labor Department expect 20 million people to use the one-stop career centers, up from 14 million in 2005.

Union City resident Philip Salazar calls the Tri-Cities One-Stop Career Center in Fremont his second home. 

Twice a week, for the past several years, the 54-year-old has used the center to find jobs, brush up on interviewing skills and submit resumes using the center’s computers and multiple resources. 

“It has never been this hard finding a job,” said Salazar, who has been unemployed for the past four years and is looking for work in sales or information technology.

Salazar said he has been living off of money he earned from selling his three-bedroom Hayward home, while also searching for employment.

Now, with his saving dwindling fast, Salazar has made his search for work a full-time job.

But he said even finding part-time work has been difficult.

Nader Ayad, 19-year owner and founder of Mission Hills Gallery Fine Jewelers in Fremont, said he would normally hire part-time help this holiday season. 

But business at the 2,000 square-foot-store has been uncharacteristically slow, leading him to make the decision to face the next couple months as a one-man show.

“Business is so expensive, I can’t close for one day knowing I could lose one customer,” Ayad said.  “But I’ll go days without a single person.

 “People right now have the option of buying jewelry, or paying their mortgage, they’re obviously going to do the latter.”

 Ayad said his goals for this season are to break even, pay off debt, or face the possibility of joining the ranks of people turning to the one-stop career centers for help.

 “I’m going to try and hang in there,” he said. “But if anything happens to me I have to close.”

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