Chicago residents seek work at Wrigley

February 7, 2009 (CHICAGO) It's another sign of the growing economic crisis in America. A report Friday showed nearly 600,000 people lost their jobs in January, including many in the Chicago area.

For now, looking for a job is the only work for unemployed electrician John Blake.

"We're real slow. Some 1,500 guys are out of work. It's been quite slow," he said.

That's the story for most of the thousands of people who stood in line, in some cases, for hours for a chance of employment at a job fair sponsored by the Chicago Cubs. The team's hiring office says it has about 300 Wrigley Field support staff positions to fill.

Out of work computer software salesman Dan Boland said hoped he would walk away with one of them.

"When I came to Chicago 18 years ago, I dreamed of working for the Cubs. Maybe it's a dream deferred, and not denied, if I get a job," Boland said.

Saturday's opportunity came as statistics showed the state of Illinois lost more than 100,000 jobs from the end of 2007 until December 2008.

"When I saw people in wheelchairs and in suits, I knew it was real bad out here," Antonio Freeman said.

Analysts say the hardest hit industries are construction, transportation, and manufacturing.

"Once you tell them you have a background, you're automatically excluded," Price said.

Employment experts say workers should expect the job market to get worse before it gets better.

"Don't wait. Don't wait for your severance to run out. There are a lot of people chasing a few jobs. Don't delay," said John Challenger of Challenger Gray and Christmas.

And while full-time positions may be at a premium, part-time jobs are available. This weekend, the CTA held a job fair hoping to hire several hundred bus drivers.

"We're trying to offer people an opportunity to get a good paying part-time job. It's a well- paying job $18 an hour," said Ald. Ray Suarez, who represents the city's 31st Ward.

However, workers' rights advocates warn, the unemployed should be aware of employers who might try to take advantage of the desperate job outlook.

"A lot of corporations are using the situation to take away workers' rights and say to them, 'You should be happy you have a job,'" said the South Austin Coalition' s Elce Redmond.

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