Daily Video

September 1, 2009

Job Seekers Face Long Searches in Tough Economy

As part of his ongoing series on “Making Sense” of the economy, NewsHour economics correspondent Paul Solman visits a Manhattan job fair where many people have been out of work for as long as a year

14.5 million Americans are officially unemployed and five million people have gone without a job for at least half-a-year, the highest percentage since the government began tracking long-term joblessness in the 1940s.

In this video, Paul Solman talks to job seekers and recruiters — from the “Gold Miners” to the National Guard — and to a pair of especially insightful professors — to find out how the financial downturn is affecting job security, even as the economy (perhaps) improves.


“I went to one interview, and the lady actually told me to my face that there were enough colored people on this job, and that the boss was not interested in hiring any more people of color. And I said: “Well, you know, what you are saying is extremely illegal. I could take that to — to a higher level.” – Philip Mereday, job seeker, whose fate we’ll be following on Solman’s NewsHour Web site, The Business Desk.

“[Job fairs are] a touching relic of the old economy. In fact, most of the people who come to job fairs are looking to hire consultants, looking to hire subcontractors that they could employ on a very casual basis, part-time workers, salesmen, people who will work on commission.” – Sudhir Venkatesh, Professor of Sociology and African-American Studies, Columbia University

“Maybe for the first time ever, wages are actually going down. This used to be one of the unbreakable truths in economics was that wage rates didn’t fall. Maybe they would get eroded by inflation, but there was resistance, stickiness. And there is some evidence now that they actually may be going — certainly going flat and maybe actually trending down.” – Peter Cappelli, Wharton School

Warm Up Questions

1. What IS a job?

2. How do people find jobs?

3. What might be wrong with the phrase “I looking for them to GIVE me a job”?

4. How do companies decide who to hire?

5. What happens when a person loses his or her job?

Discussion Questions

1. What do you remember most from this video? Why did it make an impression?

2. How did the people at the job fair feel about the economy and the chances that a “recovery” in underway?

3. What would a “recovery” be?

4. Does a recovery these days necessarily mean that secure jobs — and more of them — will again be available?

5. How might the perspective of the unemployed be different from that of people who have not lost their jobs?

6. How do you suppose being unemployed affect people’s self-esteem? What do you think the attitude was of the people in line who wouldn’t speak to Paul Solman (the interviewer)?

7. Why did the fellow on line hold up his resume?

8. Do you see unemployment in your own community? Where?

9. Are you worried about finding a job yourself? Why or why not?

10. Do you think the government should help people who are looking for a job? Why or why not? And if so, how?

Additional Resources

Read the transcript

Business Desk: The Meaning of Recovery

Making Sen$e: Your Guide to the Economy

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