- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 15, 2009

Ernest Butts knew it would be crowded at a local job fair Wednesday morning, so he got going early to ensure himself a place at the front of the line. He wanted to be the first person to make a good impression on each company.

And he did not waste any time, knowing he could not be late for his part-time job Wednesday evening.

Mr. Butts, like millions of other Americans with part-time jobs, was looking for a full-time position. The search took him to the Employment Guide job fair at FedEx Field.

Prospects were not good. Economists predict rising unemployment, which now stands at a 26-year high of 9.8 percent, is not expected to peak until reaching 10.3 percent or higher next summer.

“It’s pretty rough to find a full-time job right now,” Mr. Butts said.

Christine Freeman couldn’t agree more. She brought her 17-year-old son, Ronnell, with her to the job fair, hoping they could both find jobs.

Ms. Freeman is another employed American who is looking for a more stable job situation. Right now, she’s scraping by with two part-time jobs. And she hopes that finding a full-time job will calm things down.

“It’s been kind of hard, but I’m going to keep on trying until I get something,” she said.

The number of part-time employees who are looking for full-time jobs has been steadily increasing and totaled 9.2 million last month, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Many part-time workers settled for their positions after they couldn’t find a full-time job, said BLS economist Abraham Mosisa.

“You need the money, but you can’t find a full-time job, so you take whatever you get,” he said. “You have to pay rent and eat. Until you find what you are looking for, you have to take what comes first.”

But while most job seekers were searching for full-time positions, Robert Murphy was taking advantage of the entry-level positions that he said are easier to find.

“It is tough, yes, but there are a lot of jobs in the area,” he said. “Most people are looking for full-time positions, so these entry-level jobs are great.”

But he wasn’t there for himself. Mr. Murphy is the supported employment program coordinator for Pathways to Housing in D.C., where he helps mentally-ill homeless individuals find jobs.

So he explored the job fair, hoping to meet “sympathetic and understanding” employers with entry-level jobs who would work with him and potentially hire his clients.

“At times they’re more willing to help, to give them that second chance,” Mr. Murphy said.

While part-time workers are scrambling for better jobs outside of Mr. Murphy’s bubble of clients, Mr. Mosisa said there’s still hope for these part-time workers, even in the midst of what he called the worst recession since the Great Depression.

“There’s always hope,” he said. “Of course.”

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