She has decades of experience, more than 40 certifications and has 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 she searches a job.
“I’ve been working since I was 8 and a half, 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 it didn’t take off either.
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Over the summer she tried to make deliveries through DoorDash. With no one to watch over her children, she loaded them into her 20-year-old car and drove until they could no longer tolerate each other or it was dark – whichever came first. Most of the $ 60 to $ 70 she earned per week was used to recoup the money she spent on gasoline.
When Corona has applied for managerial 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 awesome resume,” but they go with other candidates, she says.
And even though she only has access to the hotel’s slow 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 talks to employers about her children, she said. Her eldest, an 11-year-old girl, has had multiple brain and spine surgeries since birth and her second child, a 6-year-old boy, also has health problems.
None of the employers she interviewed wanted to bypass her children’s fluctuating school schedules and her daughter’s medical uncertainties, she said.
“I was told, ‘I don’t think you will be able to meet our needs,’” said Corona. “I have 20 years of restaurant experience … I worked in management, in facilities, (at) the KB toy store before it went bankrupt.”
“So it’s not the fact that I can’t accomplish, it’s the fact that I just told you about my kids and now all of a sudden it puts a bitter taste in your mouth.” , she said.
Choosing which jobs to pursue is also a challenge, she said.
She must either work full time where she earns enough money to pay for childcare, or work part time to be able to take care of her children. She must also earn enough money to pay for her children’s medical bills. Currently, she can pay for state health insurance because she is unemployed. If she were to get a part-time minimum wage job, she would need to find one that provided immediate and affordable medical benefits.
Her own health and well-being are also concerns for her.
“I am all my kids have 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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Stephanie Sawyer of Mount Laurel is another mom who struggled to find a job in 2021. Unlike Corona, she found one, but not without confusion and frustration.
A former writer for a promotional products company, she was “spoiled” by flexible hours and the ability to work from anywhere. But, when the pandemic struck, corporate events stopped and companies stopped buying branded pens and water bottles. Immediately after losing his job, Sawyer started looking for another one.
She looked for a part-time job in the area so that 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 match her.
“If it was good, it wasn’t part-time. If it was part-time, the pay was appalling, ”she said.
She didn’t hear from any jobs she was “significantly overqualified” for, but would then still see them posted on job boards weeks later.
She didn’t even need any benefits; she obtains them through her husband, a retired police officer.
In December, Sawyer got a job as an administrative assistant for an apartment complex. But her experience left her in awe, 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 place, 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 the thousands of people in South Jersey facing economic uncertainties by 2022.
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 preliminary data available from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. -United. About 50,000 people were unemployed.
In Cumberland County, the number of people employed in financial activities fell 10% between November 2020 and 2021 – one of the biggest drops in the employment rate in a single industry in South Jersey.
Atlantic County saw the second largest decrease in the unemployment rate in metropolitan areas across the country during the same period – 7.6%, 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 also stagnated or even declined in November. The average hourly wage was $ 31.03, an increase of almost $ 1.50 from 2020. However, if one takes into account increases in the cost of living and other factors, this represents a almost 2% drop in earnings since November 2020.
The two main economic issues to watch over the next few months are labor and supply chains, according to Ryotaro Tashiro, senior outreach economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
In other words: who is working or not working and with what materials are they working?
“Every CEO I’ve spoken to, over the past two months, has spoken about the difficulty of hiring people and the high cost of labor,” Tashiro said in an interview on 6 January.
People are reluctant to take a job due to health issues, he said.
Parents who work also find it difficult to stay or find a job. School districts reverting to distance education and the availability of child care services are affecting their ability to take jobs or reconfigure their current jobs, Tashiro said.
Lots of people are also quitting en masse because they want to be paid better.
“For those who stayed in the workforce, when you think of the so-called ‘Big Resignation’ and how people changed jobs, wages play a pretty big role,” he said. he declares.
Faced with these hiring challenges, Tashiro said companies had increased wages “quite quickly” over the past six months. Almost all sectors of work are seeing some growth in wages, he said; none “experienced zero or negative growth”.
Although salaries are the main way to attract candidates, according to Tashiro, some companies are re-evaluating non-cash incentives as well. Almost all of the companies he spoke with have changed their operations to allow as much remote working as possible, and many are reviewing their full set of benefits, he said.
These rising labor costs drive up the price of consumer products, like gasoline and groceries, according to Tashiro. However, prices are also rising as companies struggle to access raw materials. Steel and aluminum, for example, are more difficult to buy, he said.
A long-term problem that more people should pay attention to, according to Tashiro, is also a work 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 workforce.
“If we have all these people retiring and not coming back to the workforce, it will affect the labor supply,” he said.
The aging of the population is also having an impact on 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 economics for the Burlington County Times, the Courier-Post and the Daily Journal. He is a multimedia journalist from Central Jersey and recently graduated from George Washington University.
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