Bleak jobs report prompts rally in Chicago

September 2, 2011 (CHICAGO)

The U.S. unemployment rate is stalled at 9.1 percent, making August the weakest jobs report since September of last year.

The group Chicago Jobs with Justice gathered at the State of Illinois Building Friday to call on the president to get a jobs program passed. This group says the private sector isn't creating jobs in a weak economy so the federal government has to. Activists on the other side of the issue argue for lower taxes and less regulation.

Many who are finding work are only being offered part-time or temporary jobs. For many employers, that is the current trend, as they hold back on offering full time positions with benefits.

In the Chicago area, we were hearing about a bit of hiring activity at the beginning of the summer. But things have slowed. Jobs that are being offered are short-term contracts or part-time hours. This phenomenon is forcing job seekers to be creative and persistent.

After a career in office administration, Belinda Betts didn't think she would end up a temp agency. Friday, she had her computer skills assessed at Manpower to find a job.

"It's difficult to keep your spirits up, so you have to do social networking, find a good church home, or volunteer. You have to do something," Betts said.

Betts has been out of work since March and her previous job was a short-term contract. She expects any new employment will also be temporary.

"Temporary, no benefits, et cetera, et cetera, which makes it extremely difficult to manage economically," said Betts.

Anne Edmonds is Illinois' regional director at Manpower. She has seen a decline in employers looking for full-time employees.

Edmonds sees employers trying to be flexible, uncertain of what's ahead.

"The recession was so deep that they have the ability to flex faster with more temporary workers than permanent," said Edmonds.

With employers holding back and unemployment at 9.1 percent nationally, some job seekers are shifting their strategies.

Harriet McCullough came to Career Transition Center of Chicago for help finding full-time work. She hasn't found that, but what she has found is an option: an entrepreneurial career. She has been teaching college courses part time and realized, if she added another part-time job, she can survive.

"You need to broaden your focus," McCullough said. "I'm going to figure out how to live with this. This is what's going to be on the table."

"Doing contract work can both bring in revenue into the household and I think it can also keep your skills current," said Career Transitions Center's Anita Jenke. "Also, by doing contract work, it can lead to full-time work or can lead to other work. And it certainly keeps you out there networking, which is really, really critical."

McCullough just landed a second part time job and starts in two weeks.

The Career Transitions Center usually sees fewer clients during the summer months. But this summer has seen the highest number of clients in years.

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