Deion Murray has been stocking shelves at a Walmart in South Philadelphia for a year and a half.
“It was OK to start, but you see the same thing every day,” the 20-year-old Southwest Philadelphia resident said. “I need something different.”
That’s what brought Murray to a job fair Thursday sponsored by Temple University’s Lenfest North Philadelphia Workforce Initiative. Training opportunities with the Opportunities Industrialization Center (a solar panel installer) and with American Medical Response (an emergency medical technician) looked promising to Murray, who said he would like to have a trade and relished the opportunity for training.
With Philadelphia’s unemployment rate at 4.6 percent in March — as low as it’s been since 1990, when the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics started publishing the number — people looking for a better job or relocating to Philadelphia were easier to find at the job fair than people trying to end a period of unemployment.
Among about 1,300 candidates who attended the job fair with with 145 employers was Gailyn Gabriel, 23, who stood in line for a chance to speak with Comcast representatives about a position as a data analyst. She wants to move to Philadelphia from Baltimore, where she works remotely for a social media start-up.
With three years of experience as a direct care worker for people with mental illness or intellectual disabilities, Gabrielle Starks, 25, wants to move from Berks County to Philadelphia, where she’ll work full time in direct care while pursing a degree in social work at Temple.
Mayor Jim Kenney, who spoke at the job fair, put out a news release Thursday, less than a week before the primary election, touting the city’s “strong economic growth.” The release said the number of unemployed Philadelphians had fallen to 33,409 in March from a peak during current national economic cycle of 84,946 in July 2012.
Despite the positive trend, Philadelphia’s average unemployment rate last year of 5.5 percent was the highest among the nation’s 15 largest cities, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The second-highest rate, 4.7 percent, was found in Los Angeles. San Francisco had the lowest rate, 2.4 percent, among the largest cities.
That official national unemployment rate fell to 3.6 percent last month, the lowest since 1969, but economists caution that the “real unemployment rate” is much higher if you include people who have given up looking for a job, work part time because they can’t find a full-time position, and who are otherwise underemployed. That rate nationally in April was 7.3 percent.
Thursday’s job fair at the Aramark Student Training and Recreation Complex, which listed 145 employers on a guide, also attracted people who are further into their careers, including Hank Owens, 54, who just finished his master’s degree in social work while working in early intervention for a addiction recovery nonprofit.