Elizabeth Career Center Helps Jobless Find Work

By Michael Hill

At the one-stop career center in Elizabeth, they’ve seen it. The last of June jump in jobless school workers looking for a summertime gig.

The center says it’s run the gamut from teachers to janitors to school bus drivers.

Some turn to the Jersey Gardens Mall and its retail skills center.

That’s part of what Elizabeth’s Mayor Chris Bollwage came to tout as he cut the ribbon on Cache, a new store here.

“We also work with other folks at the school board in order to make sure they have some employment during the summer so it’s a combination of a team effort,” Bollwage said.

Carmen Guerrero is not a school worker but just landed her new stylist job at Cache through the skills center. When she got the call, she said, “I was excited and nervous and anxious. I don’t know it was just a bundle of different, exciting feelings.”

Guerrero says she looked for months.

New Jersey law allows jobless school workers looking for just a couple months to collect unemployment insurance pay.

Those workers caused the big jump for the last of June new unemployment claims — 20,624 new claims. The week before, 12,045 — a jump of 70 percent.

The state Department of Labor and Workforce Development says don’t be fooled by the numbers. Even in really good economic times you see the same spike in statistics at the end of the school year.

Take September 1987. New jobless claims fell to 5,700 from 14,000 in June.

So Elizabeth Mayor Bollwage sees last month’s jump in claims as no big deal.

“I think you’re seeing a robust economy with just facing a blip in the numbers,” he said.

The temporarily jobless school workers are competing with long-term jobless job seekers like Alyce Obuch looking for clerical work.

“My family helps me,” Obuch said. When asked if she ever thought that at this stage of her life it would come to that, she said, “No, no I didn’t. I really didn’t. I thought everything would be secure. But, things change.”

They do. Carmen Guerrero says she’s the proof. She says don’t give up, your opportunity will come.