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Between working and unemployed, chronically underemployed
A line of job seekers snakes around the Whitcomb Hotel as they wait to enter the California Job Journal HIREvent February 10, 2009 in San Francisco, California.
April 16th, 2012
12:34 PM ET

Between working and unemployed, chronically underemployed

By Steve Kastenbaum, CNN

(CNN) - Last Thursday’s jobless report showed a jump in the number of first time applicants for unemployment benefits. The weekly Labor Department report draws a distinction between people who are working and those who are not. But it doesn’t shed any light on the underemployed, or people who are sort of sometimes working.

“I graduated from college and I have tons of skills. I know how to run an office and I can’t get a job,” said Sarah Morris while sitting in the waiting room at the Oliver Staffing company in Midtown Manhattan. The last time she held a full-time gig was in April of 2009. Since then she’s been part of the chronically underemployed; people who for more than a year have worked part-time or taken temporary jobs.

“I’ve been in this industry for about 26 years and this is by far the deepest, the longest and most widespread frozen job market I have ever experienced personally,” said Seeley Oliver, the founder of Oliver Staffing. “I have tons of people that have fallen off the radar,” she said of the clients she considers to be highly employable. “These are IT professionals. These are analysts. These are executive assistants.”

While a recent Labor Department report showed a point-two percent drop in the number of underemployed people in the US, Oliver believes it doesn’t reflect the true reality of the job market. “I have more people than I can handle and I wish I had the positions to fill.”

Companies still come to Oliver Staffing for hiring help. But Oliver said when they see people with erratic employment histories they move on to the next job candidate. “You have employers who say I don’t want to hire anybody who is not currently employed because the perception is something must be wrong with them which is totally not true. So again, it’s this perpetual gridlock.”

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