Fewer jobs for unemployed workers

@CNNMoney June 7, 2011: 9:54 AM ET
There are fewer jobs listed at one New Jersey career center. The unemployed feel the economic slowdown first-hand.

Elisa Johnson looks for a job at the One-Stop Career Center in Hackensack, N.J. Click on the image to hear her story and others.

HACKENSACK, N.J. (CNNMoney) -- No one has to tell the folks at the One-Stop Career Center in northern New Jersey that the economy is getting softer.

They feel it first-hand.

"The last month or two, it's gotten very slow," said Susan DeGroat, who lost her job as a billing manager two years ago. "I go online and the same jobs are still posted."

DeGroat, who was using the computers to search for jobs at the One-Stop center in Hackensack, N.J., on Monday morning, has not been on an interview in more than a month. The 55-year-old applied for several positions lately, but has not heard back from the firms.

DeGroat is not imagining things. Fewer businesses are hiring these days and more people are coming in to discuss their unemployment insurance claims, said Salvatore Mastroeni, who directs the center.

The uptick in job openings he saw earlier in the year has waned amid concerns of regulatory uncertainty in Washington D.C. and fallout from the natural disasters hitting Japan and elsewhere in the U.S.

"Many of the employers that we talk with are hunkering down," said Mastroeni, who first noticed the shift in April. "They are not willing, with the unknown before them, to expand and to rehire people at this particular point in time."

Across the nation, employers have pulled back on hiring. The economy gained only 54,000 jobs in May, down from 232,000 in April, the government reported Friday.

The jobless say they are well aware of the change in attitude.

Why the job market stinks

Only a few months ago, Dexter Francis felt things were improving. Out of work for three years, the information technology manager saw an increase in job listings and started going on a lot more interviews.

Nowadays, though, he isn't getting as many responses from employers, despite his multiple degrees and certifications. Staffing agencies he works with have told him the job openings are on hold, a practice Francis finds very frustrating.

"Why are these employers posting these jobs when it appears they are not moving forward?" said Francis, 50, who lives in Hackensack and is now applying for construction and warehouse posts just to make some money.

When Elisa Johnson lost her job as an office coordinator at local medical center in mid-March, she wasn't that concerned about finding another position. Many of her friends said that jobs were available.

"People were telling me this place is hiring, that place is hiring," said Johnson, 45, a mother of six who still works a part-time job. "They were telling me there were a lot of places that were hiring."

More recently, the chatter among her friends focuses on those who have lost their jobs over the past few weeks.

"Now, I see people and they are coming here...to the unemployment center," she said. "That's something that's sad."

Concern about the economic shift is becoming more and more pervasive at the One-Stop center these days.

"You can hear through their tone that they are getting discouraged," Mastroeni said.

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