- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Thousands of D.C. residents flocked to the D.C. Convention Center in Northwest yesterday with resumes in hand and hopes of landing a job during the seventh annual Norton Job Fair.

The daylong event, sponsored by D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat, attracted about 7,000 job seekers to the huge ballroom on the third level to discuss employment prospects, fill out applications and drop off resumes with 70 employers from the metropolitan area.

Mrs. Norton, who stopped to chat with residents as they moved through the Convention Center, noted the long lines and the number of people looking for work.

“African-American unemployment is up, over 10 percent to 11 percent [nationwide]. That’s a huge jump in the midst of a recovery. This job fair shows that job recovery has not taken place in the District and certainly not for African-Americans,” Mrs. Norton said.

Officials from the D.C. Department of Employment Services placed unemployment in the District at 7.1 percent. The national rate has lingered at 5.5 percent since December.

“We are trying especially hard this year to bring some relief to the thousands of hard-hit D.C. residents anxious to work,” she said.

The U.S. Labor Department reported that “the economy created a meager 32,000 new jobs last month.” Mrs. Norton said that number is “dramatically lower” than the 200,000 to 300,000 jobs forecast for July.

Despite disappointing job growth, Anthony Dickey of Capitol Hill, who has been unemployed for one year, came to the fair to see what was available.

“When an opportunity like this comes along, you have to take advantage of it. All of the employers were in the same room, they were friendly and happy to answer all of my questions,” said Mr. Dickey, 41.

“Today, I learned about various training programs that Pepco, the Small Business Administration and the National Housing Cooperative offer. I thought this was pretty good. A lot of times, it’s not everything you want, but this was a good event,” he said.

Lolita Capers, 31, said she would not leave the job fair without stopping by every recruiter’s table. The optimistic Northeast resident said she felt good about her conversations with employers.

“I’m not kidding about finding a position,” Ms. Capers said with a smile.

“I’m looking in the health care field — caring for the elderly. And this has really been good. There are so many people out here without jobs,” she said.

Marilyn Connally, 40, said she has never missed a Norton Job Fair. The mother of three who lives in Northeast said she is looking for something stable — not temporary or seasonal.

“I definitely support the job fairs, but I think employers should be more considerate in terms of notifying applicants [whether they are being considered or not],” she said.

At yesterday’s fair, Ms. Connally said she received a lot of pointers from the Office of Personnel Management. She also stopped by the table of the Arnold & Porter law firm.

By noon, Norris Bethea, a recruiter for the U.S. State Department, said he had spoken with 1,000 applicants.

“We had a great turnout,” said Mr. Bethea, 36.

He said 90 percent of the people who visited the federal government agency’s recruitment table were interested in civil service positions, human resources and information-technology jobs. Many, he said seemed leery about going overseas.

“This has been a very worthwhile event,” he said.

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