In a once thriving job market, many are adapting by taking lower paying, less appealing jobs in this pressed economy

A Ventura woman, who asked to remain anonymous, shared her job-hunting experience.

“Last week I drove five hours north to interview for an administrative job at a chiropractor’s office. When I got to the office, I was blown away. Not only was the office filled with women waiting to interview, all 30-plus women were crammed together like sardines. We could hardly fill out our applications. I was reminded of the old pictures from the Great Depression, where men and women stood in lines hoping to get work. It was like a cattle call while this insensitive doctor had us, one by one, stand and introduce ourselves, give our background, the last job we had, and why we believe we would be a good candidate for the position. It was outrageous the number of us who had lost their jobs and were overqualified!” This woman in her mid-50s had been looking for a job religiously for more than a year, and was open to relocating for survival’s sake if necessary.

If relocation were the ticket, it is possible people would be moving out of California in masses. However, unemployment everywhere continues to slide down a slippery slope quickly.

Katharyn Lawrence, the president and CEO of Pyramid Agency in Ventura, is concerned about what she has witnessed over the last many months. Lawrence says, “Trillions of dollars have been spent on this so-called stimulus package, yet why isn’t some of this money being utilized for jobs?”

Negative impacts of a poor job market continue to jeopardize household after household, and the promise of job quality and security is compromised. Veronica Lemus, staffing manager at Workforce Systems in Ventura, says, “I have noticed huge changes in the amount of people coming to us over the last eight months who are desperate to find work. There are a lot more in the applicant pool today, and while people are looking for security, it is becoming harder to find in some job markets.” Lemus further added, “With the job market so jam-packed, employers know that they can offer much lower salaries.”

Desperate employees who once earned higher salaries are now settling for much less. Much like the real estate market, when rent remains high, favoring landlords, the job market favors employers.

“After working as a staffing manager for the last eight years, I have always been able to forecast the employers market, but as of about six months ago, it became completely uncertain,” Lemus says.

Here in California, programs like Work Sharing Unemployment allows for the payment of Work Sharing Unemployment Insurance benefits to individuals whose wages have been reduced. While this seems like a good thing, Lawrence says, “The program is difficult because it takes so long for anyone to actually receive benefits, and even worse, there doesn’t seem to be a sustainable answer. The government skirts around and never really answers questions about this.”

California’s Work Sharing Unemployment program seems ideal for employers that need to downsize in this struggling economy. California Employment Development Department (EDD) offers this as a possible alternative to laying-off employees. With this program, an employer can cut an employees hours, while EDD continues to give them partial unemployment benefits. However, if the benefits are not immediately accessible, this might be problematic to a family counting on lost income.

Lawrence relayed that she has heard stories similar to that of the woman who experienced a group interview. “How can an employer really evaluate the potential of a candidate with that many applicants staring him or her in the face? They can’t.”

“There’s no predictor here. Normally in this business, I can predict markets that are either dying or doing well, but today I am seeing about every type looking for a job. It’s very flexural, and I don’t know where this is going to end,” Lawrence says.

Both Lemus and Lawrence agree that utilizing a staffing agency is a wise choice for job-hunting. “Staffing services help to weed out the jobs a person is qualified for, and there are agencies that are geared toward a particular job niche,” Lemus says.

Craigslist, is still one of the top job boards, even though the responses from potential employees are enormous. Craigslist responses notoriously range from 400 to 500 responses per listing.
Lemus says, “I am optimistic. I do see this turning around, hopefully within the next six months.”