Thousands of job-seekers pack area race track

Job-seeker Iasia Simpson (c.) and LaGuardia Community College Employment Specialist Danny Bernard wait on line to enter state Sen. Joseph Addabbo's job fair at Aqueduct Race Track. Photo by Christina Santucci
By Connor Adams Sheets

More than 3,000 people showed up for a job fair in Ozone Park last week hosted by state Sen. Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach), all searching for that elusive position in today’s down economy.

Some were under-employed or looking to change careers, but with a jobless rate of 9.3 percent in New York City, many more were fully unemployed, looking for anything to help them pay the bills.

More than 125 employers came to Aqueduct Race Track Friday afternoon to pitch about 1,200 open positions to area residents, who came in pressed suits and professional blouses, with folders packed with résumés and pockets full of business cards. Contrary to what many attendees expected, the list of vendors looking to fill positions did not include Resorts World New York, the company which will be creating 800 new jobs when it builds a racino at the track next year. But the company did have a representative explaining it will begin the hiring process in January.

Many of the job seekers outwardly displayed exuberant confidence and hope, but their inner feelings of anxiety were palpable when they spoke, voices wavering after layoffs, months of rejection and the fear of not knowing how they will fill their refrigerators.

Iasia Simpson of Ozone Park has a 3-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter. She has been out of work for nearly a year and said she has applied to dozens of jobs without getting so much as a callback. She is worried about what the future may hold, but Addabbo’s fair made her optimistic that she might be able to find a “really solid” position as a home health aide, saleswoman, daycare worker or something else she would be able to depend on.

“It’s very hard. You have kids and they need things as far as necessities. You have to pay bills,” she said while perusing the vendors. “They want to raise the rent, they want to raise the fares, all these things, but they don’t want to pay more or give out jobs and it’s the middle-class people who are getting hurt. Hopefully today — there are so many jobs here — I might get a job. But I’m just not sure how it’s going to go.”

The event was also a great opportunity for employers, said Stephanie Grey, a sales recruitment supervisor for mattress chain Sleepy’s. The company was hoping to fill more than 50 positions in a range of fields from sales to human resources to warehouse labor, and Friday’s event was a great way to survey the field of possible employees and make some initial contacts, Grey said.

“We definitely have plenty of résumés to go through for sure,” she said. “We’re going to go back and look at everyone’s qualifications and decide who we want to pursue further.”

Though not everyone who came to the fair will be offered employment on the basis of their efforts there, the event is a great opportunity for area residents and a start toward finding the employment they seek, Addabbo said. Friday’s free event, which also featured four complementary lectures on different job skills, was the third large-scale job fair Addabbo has held since August 2009. He recommended that job-seekers not be discouraged as they go about their search.

“There are three things I recommend. One: Be persistent. Keep searching, you may have to go to eight job fairs before you get something,” he said. “Second, branch out in your job search, broaden it, network, search online, talk to friends and family. And be diverse in your search, apply in all different industries, be flexible with hours, salary, everything. Maybe do a temp job until you can get something permanent. The more flexible you are, the more likely you are to get a job.”

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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