Before the opening of the jobs fair I recently hosted with Workforce Solutions Alamo at the Live Oak Civic Center, people began lining up outside. By the 9 a.m. start time, the line was wrapped around the civic center and had wound back on itself. Visiting with the men and women of all ages, backgrounds, skills and goals, I found each person to be a chapter in the story of where our economy is today. Some had jobs but were looking to improve their prospects; others were worried about a looming layoff, or unemployed. Recently out of work, long out of work, or so long out of work that resolve had worn thin. Such are the faces of the unemployed and under-employed as Bexar County struggles with a 21 year high jobless rate of 7.9 percent.
We're all familiar with the 60,000-foot view of the country's jobs plight. While it's good to have a grasp of the big picture, zooming in gives us a greater understanding of the personal toll of joblessness. My focus narrowed over the summer when I learned a neighbor friend of mine was casting about for work. His business, dependent on the turbulent financial markets, had fallen off to the point where he had begun actively seeking a position a degree or two removed from his chosen field.
While at the jobs fair, I spoke with a bright, articulate, young man circulating his resume in hopes of landing "just about anything I'm offered -- the company I work for was bought out last month and I'm out of a job after Thanksgiving." He has children and Christmas is coming. That is a stark picture.
Just why is it that our country has shed more than two million jobs over the past two years? Why are 14 million Americans looking for work in an economy where at least seven million jobs are being worked by people unlawfully in America? Why are we surprised that businesses aren't hiring, or are downsizing, or even closing, when Washington is regulating and taxing them out of existence?
Significant, positive, and effective action must be taken by the White House and by Congress. On the House side of the Capitol rotunda, a number of bold initiatives have been taken. For instance, in the House Judiciary Committee, which I chair, we've approved a Balanced Budget Amendment to our Constitution, a measure ensuring that jobs are available first and only to U.S. citizens, and legislation to reduce the burden of unnecessary regulations on businesses. It is my hope that the President and Senate leadership will soon cut federal spending, bolster a legal workforce, and lift stifling regulations from employers large and small.
When the fair had drawn to a close, nearly 1,100 job seekers had connected with nearly 100 employers ranging from restaurants to retail, customer service to the service trades, office help to corporate career path, and no-tech, low-tech and high-tech. While not all who attended found work, many job seekers were converted to job holders.
It's not often that we can witness lives being changed for the better. At the jobs fair, I saw people wanting to work and provide for their families. That is a humbling experience and one I hope can be replicated around the country.