She has decades of experience, more than 40 certifications and completed several manual labor apprenticeships – yet she has been unemployed since the start of the pandemic.
Sunnie Corona, 35, is a single mother of three who has lived in a hotel in Somers Point since April 2020. She, like many in South Jersey, is ‘caught in (a) catch-22’ when looking for a job.
“I’ve been working since I was 8 1/2, so I have a hell of a work ethic,” Corona said.
She tried to donate plasma for money but couldn’t because she lives in a hotel and not at a stable address. She tried to sell from her storage locker through Facebook, but no one bought anything. She tried selling homemade dog treats, but that didn’t work either.
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Over the summer, she tried making deliveries through DoorDash. With no one to watch her children, she loaded them into her 20-year-old car and drove until they couldn’t tolerate each other or it got dark, whichever came first. Most of the $60-70 she earned a week went to recoup the money she spent on gasoline.
When Corona applied for management positions, employers tend to ignore her qualifications because she does not have a bachelor’s degree. When she applies for customer service jobs, employers tell her she has “an impressive resume,” but they choose other candidates, she said.
And even though she only has access to hotel Wi-Fi, she still applies for remote positions with the intention of investing in a mobile hotspot if she gets the job.
But all that courage and determination is ignored when she tells employers about her children, she said. Her eldest, an 11-year-old girl, has had several brain and spine surgeries since birth and her second child, a 6-year-old boy, also has health issues.
None of the employers she was interviewed with wanted to sidestep her children’s fluctuating school schedules and her daughter’s medical uncertainties, she said.
“I was told, ‘I don’t think you’ll be able to meet our needs,'” Corona said. “I have 20 years of restaurant experience… I worked in management , at the facilities, (at) the KB toy store prior to business closing.”
“So it’s not the fact that I can’t accomplish, it’s the fact that I just told you about my children and now all of a sudden it put a sour taste in your mouth,” she said.
Choosing which jobs to pursue is also a challenge, she said.
She either has to have a full-time job where she earns enough money to pay for childcare, or work part-time to be able to care for her children. She must also earn enough money to pay for her children’s medical expenses. Currently, she can pay for public health insurance because she is unemployed. If she were to get a part-time job at minimum wage, she would have to find one that offered immediate and affordable medical benefits.
Her own health and well-being are also concerns for her.
“I’m everything my kids get now. I have to be more careful with myself, my health and the wear and tear I put on my body for my children,” she said.
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Another mom who struggled to find a job in 2021 was Stephanie Sawyer of Mount Laurel. Unlike Corona, she found one, but not without confusion and frustration.
A former copywriter for a promotional products company, she was “spoiled” by flexible hours and the ability to work from anywhere. But, when the pandemic hit, corporate events stopped and companies stopped buying branded pens and water bottles. Immediately after losing his job, Sawyer began looking for another.
She sought local part-time employment so she could support her daughter while she played volleyball at school. She signed up to receive daily emails from major career websites – Zip Recruiter, Indeed and LinkedIn – but none of the jobs suited her.
“If it was good, it wasn’t part-time. If it was part-time, the pay was abysmal,” she said.
She had no news of jobs she was “well overqualified” for, but would still see them posted on job boards weeks later.
She didn’t even need benefits; she gets them through her husband, a retired policeman.
In December, Sawyer found a job as an administrative assistant at an apartment complex. But her experience left her perplexed, unsure of what employers are looking for and why they wouldn’t contact a qualified candidate.
“I think other people have to be in my position, where they’re at a point of frustration with everyone saying, ‘there are jobs everywhere, there are jobs everywhere,'” Sawyer said. “But there’s just a disconnect between ‘jobs everywhere’ and ‘I’m looking for a job,’ and I don’t know what that disconnect is.”
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Corona and Sawyer are two of thousands of people in South Jersey facing economic uncertainty as 2022 approaches.
In November, the unemployment rate in South Jersey ranged from 5% in Burlington, Camden and Gloucester counties to 8.2% in Cape May County, according to the latest available preliminary data from the States Bureau of Labor Statistics. -United. About 50,000 people were unemployed.
In Cumberland County, the number of people employed in financial activities fell by 10% between November 2020 and 2021 – one of the biggest declines in the employment rate in a single sector in South Jersey.
Atlantic County saw the second-largest decrease in unemployment rate in the nation’s metro area over the same period – 7.6%, down from 14.2%.
The national unemployment rate was 3.9% and 199,000 new jobs were created in December, but 6.3 million people were still unemployed, according to the BLS.
Wages across the country were also stagnant, if not declining, in November. The average hourly wage was $31.03, an increase of almost $1.50 from 2020. However, taking into account increases in the cost of living and other factors, this represents a decrease of nearly 2% of revenue since November 2020.
The two main economic issues to watch in the coming months are labor and supply chains, according to Ryotaro Tashiro, senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
In other words: who works or does not work and with what materials does he work?
“Every CEO I’ve spoken to, over the past two months, has talked about the difficulty of hiring people, and then the cost of labor,” Tashiro said in an interview on the 6th. january.
People are hesitant to take a job because of health issues, he said.
Working parents also find it difficult to stay or find a job. School districts returning to distance learning and the availability of child care services affect their ability to hold jobs or reconfigure their current jobs, Tashiro said.
A lot of people quit and quit en masse because they want to be paid more.
“For those who stayed in the workforce, when you think about the so-called ‘big quit’ and how people changed jobs, wages play a pretty big role,” he said. he declares.
Faced with these hiring difficulties, Tashiro said companies have been raising wages “pretty quickly” over the past six months. Almost all sectors of work are seeing some wage growth, he said; none “experienced zero or negative growth”.
Although salaries are the main way to attract candidates, according to Tashiro, some companies are also reevaluating non-monetary incentives. Almost every company he spoke to has moved their operations to allow for as much remote working as possible, and many are reviewing their entire benefits package, he said.
These rising labor costs raise the price of consumer products, such as gasoline and groceries, according to Tashiro. However, prices are also rising as companies struggle to access raw materials. Steel and aluminum, for example, are harder to buy, he said.
A long-term problem that more people should pay attention to, according to Tashiro, is also a labor problem: an aging population and a wave of retirements. The retired population grew by more than 1% last year, a significant year-over-year increase according to Tashiro. It is also an important part of the working population.
“If we have all these people retiring and not coming back into the workforce, it will affect the labor supply,” he said.
An aging population is also impacting the housing market, he said. Retirees and empty nesters looking to downsize are competing with young families for a dwindling supply of smaller or “starter” homes.
Aedy Miller covers education and the economy for the Burlington County Times, Courier-Post and The Daily Journal. He is a multimedia journalist from central Jersey and a recent graduate of George Washington University.
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