BUSINESS & ECONOMY

Labor Department Launches Jersey Job Club To Get Unemployed Back to Work

Joanne Quispe lost her job as a receptionist two years ago and now makes weekly visits to the One Stop Career Center in Neptune. She is part of the more than 441,000 unemployed New Jerseyans.

Joann Quispe describes being unemployed a struggle, both financially and emotionally. “It is a struggle, monetarily it’s a struggle, everyday waking up wishing I was at work,” said Quispe.

New Jersey’s unemployment rate jumped to 9.6 percent in June, up from 9.2 percent in May. The increase is the biggest month-to-month jump in three years.

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Monmouth University economist Steve Pressman says two factors are to blame — New Jerseyans are heavily dependent on the industries affected most by the recession, especially finance and real estate jobs in Manhattan, and the primarily suburban state was hit hard by the housing bust.

“When construction industry is hurt and financial services is hurt and people don’t have jobs and don’t have incomes, they’re not out spending in the community, the whole community is hurt,” said Pressman.

The Department of Labor and Workforce Development (LWD) launched a new initiative called the “Jersey Job Club.” The six-month program, consisting of six sessions a week, targets all job seekers. The goal is to get people like accountant Marie Cantelmo back to work quickly. Cantelmo… left her job last month. “The hardest part is the networking and that’s why I came to the Jersey Job Club,” said Cantelmo. “There’s a lot of networking going on here.”

“We decided that all New Jersey job seekers needed the opportunity to come in and get specialized services,” said LWD’s Assistant Commissioner Mary Ellen Clark. “We already have several hundred people enrolled and our goal is to reach 30,000 job seekers in this first year.”

The Christie administration says they’ve created nearly 90,000 private sector jobs since taking office and this past May and June was the largest two-month period of job creation in 12 years.

But Pressman offered a more bleak jobs picture. “The economy as a whole, just to keep unemployment stable, has to create close to 200,000 jobs a month,” said Pressman. “So to say big success we created 100,000 jobs this month or New Jersey we created several thousand jobs during the month when the state unemployment rate is stuck at 9.6 percent, it’s not a sign of success, it’s a sign of failure.”

As for Joanne Quispe…, her unemployment benefits have run out…. She’s determined to do whatever she needs to do to get by and get back into the workforce…force

Reporting from Neptune Township, Lauren Wanko files this report.