South Jersey Work in 2022


She has decades of experience, more than 40 certifications and completed several craft apprenticeships – and yet has been unemployed since the beginning of the pandemic.

Sunnie Corona, 35, is a single mother of three who has lived in a hotel in Somers Point since April 2020. Like many in South Jersey, she is “trapped in (a) Catch-22” while looking for work.

“I’ve been working since I was eight and a half, so I have a damn good work ethic,” Corona said.

She tried to donate plasma for cash, but couldn’t because she lives in a hotel rather than a permanent address. She tried to sell from her locker on Facebook, but no one bought anything. She tried selling homemade dog treats, but that didn’t help either.

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In the summer she tried to make deliveries through DoorDash. Since no one was looking after her children, she loaded them into her 20-year-old car and drove until they couldn’t get along or it got dark – whichever comes first. Most of the $ 60 to $ 70 a week she made went towards paying back the money she’d spent on gasoline.

When Corona has applied for management positions, employers ignore their qualifications because they do not have a bachelor’s degree. When she’s applying for customer service jobs, employers tell her she has “an impressive resume,” but they match other candidates, she said.

And even though she only has sluggish hotel WiFi, she still applies for remote positions with the intention of investing in a mobile hotspot when she gets the job.

But all that courage and determination is disregarded when she tells her employers about her children, she said. Her oldest, an 11-year-old girl, has had multiple brain and spinal surgeries since she was born, and her middle child, a 6-year-old boy, also has health concerns.

None of the employers she was interviewed with wanted to sidestep her children’s volatile school hours and her daughter’s medical insecurities, she said.

“I was told, ‘I don’t think you can meet our needs,'” Corona said. “I have 20 years of restaurant experience … I worked in management, facilities, (at) KB Toy Store before I was given up.”

“So, it’s not the fact that I can’t satisfy, it’s the fact that I just told you about my kids and that suddenly put a sour taste in your mouth,” she said.

Choosing a career is also a challenge, she said.

She must either have a full-time job that makes enough money to be able to afford childcare or a part-time job so that she can look after her children. She also needs to make enough money to pay for her children’s medical expenses. Currently she can afford state health insurance because she is unemployed. If she were to get a part-time minimum wage job, she would have to get one that would offer her immediate and affordable medical care.

Her own health and wellbeing are also important to her.

“I am everything my children are getting now. I have to take more care of myself, my health and the stresses and strains 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.

The former copywriter for a promotional products company was “spoiled” by flexible working hours and the ability to work from anywhere. But when the pandemic broke out, corporate events stopped and companies stopped buying branded pens and water bottles. Immediately after she lost her job, Sawyer looked for someone else.

She was looking for a part-time job on site so she could support her daughter while she played school volleyball. She signed up to receive daily emails from the big career websites – Zip Recruiter, Indeed, and LinkedIn – but none of the jobs matched.

“If it was good, it wasn’t part time. If it was part time the pay was abysmal, ”she said.

She never heard of jobs for which she was “largely overqualified”, but weeks later saw them advertised on job exchanges.

She didn’t even need services; she gets it through her husband, a retired policeman.

In December, Sawyer found a job as an administrative assistant for a residential complex. But her experience left her confused, unsure what employers are looking for and why they wouldn’t turn to a qualified candidate.

“I think other people have to be in my position where they get frustrated when everyone says, ‘There are jobs everywhere, there are jobs everywhere,'” said Sawyer. “But there is only one discrepancy between ‘jobs everywhere’ and ‘I’m looking for a job’ and I don’t know what that discrepancy is.”

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Corona and Sawyer are two of the thousands of people in South Jersey facing economic uncertainties through 2022.

In November, the unemployment rate in South Jersey ranged from 5% in Burlington, Camden and Gloucester Counties to 8.2% in Cape May Counties, according to the latest available preliminary data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s around 50,000 unemployed.

In Cumberland County, the number of people employed in finance declined 10% between November 2020 and 2021 – one of the largest falls in the employment rate within any sector in South Jersey.

Atlantic County saw the second largest drop in the unemployment rate in the country’s metropolitan area over the same period – 7.6% after 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, if not declined, until November. The average hourly wage was $ 31.03, up nearly $ 1.50 from 2020. However, when you factor in the cost of living increases and other factors, that translates to a nearly 2% drop in income since November 2020.

According to Ryotaro Tashiro, senior outreach economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, the two top economic issues to watch out for in the coming months are labor and supply chains.

In other words: who works or not and what materials do they work with?

“Every single CEO I’ve spoken to over the past few months has spoken about how difficult it was to hire and how expensive the labor costs were,” Tashiro said in an interview on Jan. 6.

People are reluctant to take jobs for health reasons, he said.

Working parents also have difficulties staying in their jobs or finding a job. School districts returning to distance learning and the availability of childcare are affecting their ability to either accept jobs or reconfigure their current jobs, Tashiro said.

Many quit and quit in droves because they want to be better paid.

“For those who stayed in the workforce, wages play a pretty important role when we think of what is known as the ‘Great Resignation’ and job changes,” he said.

Given these hiring difficulties, Tashiro said companies had raised wages “pretty quickly” over the past six months. Almost all labor sectors are seeing some wage growth, he said; none “went through zero or negative growth”.

While wages are the primary way to attract candidates, some companies are also reassessing non-monetary incentives, according to Tashiro. Almost every company he spoke to has relocated operations to allow for as much remote working as possible and many are reviewing their entire service packages, he said.

These rising labor costs are driving up the prices of consumer goods like gasoline and groceries, according to Tashiro. But prices are also rising because companies are fighting for access to raw materials. Steel and aluminum, for example, are more difficult to source, he said.

A long-term problem that more people should be paying attention to is also a work-related problem, according to Tashiro: an aging population and a wave of retirements. The retired population rose more than 1% in the past year, a significant increase in a year, according to Tashiro. That is also a significant part of the workforce.

“If all of these people retire and don’t return to the labor force, it will affect the labor supply,” he said.

An aging population also affects the housing market, he said. Pensioners and empty nests who want to downsize compete with young families for a dwindling supply of smaller or “starter” houses.

Aedy Miller reports on education and business for the Burlington County Times, Courier-Post, and The Daily Journal. You are a multimedia journalist based out of Central Jersey and recently graduated from George Washington University.

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