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You probably know someone who is unemployed.

Job cuts across the board have lopped off the heads of tons of workers. Usually when we consider or discuss the unemployed, we're really talking about blue-collar workers. Factory jobs have been decreasing in the United States for years, making the word "unemployed" synonymous with "working class" or, in this case, non-working class.

But that's not the case this time around. The recession, if that's what we're calling it -- constant corporate belt tightening along with the dot-com catastrophe -- has created an economic landscape that's taking its toll on white-collar professionals as well.

And it's slim pickings for the jobless. Help-wanted sections are smaller than ever. In New York City, I'm seeing posters offering rewards to anyone with a job lead.

So when my wife, the owner/operator/sole full-time employee of a children's consignment shop, decided she needed some assistance at the store, I told her not to worry too much about it. Thousands of workers are unemployed and looking for jobs in the New York area, I assured her. Place an ad with the local newspaper and sit back and watch the applications roll in. The hardest part, I said, will be choosing someone from all of the overqualified applicants.

Following my expert advice, my wife placed an ad for a retail salesperson in the weekly bargain-hunter publication. All we had to do was sift through the phone calls from frantic job seekers.

The help-wanted ad generated a sum total of two responses: one lady who only spoke Spanish and a college student who could work from 2 to 4 p.m. on Tuesday -- with no flexibility in her schedule.

No big deal, I said. The weekly shopper pub is a dog -- I guess nobody checks it for jobs. We'll have to buck up and place an ad in the Sunday edition of the daily newspaper.

So Sunday came and we waited for the phone calls. We waited...and waited some more.

On Tuesday an elderly woman who sold Mary Kay cosmetics responded to the ad. Mary Kay. That's sort of like retail, we figured. My wife arranged for an appointment to meet with the cosmetics entrepreneur.

And the would-be pink Caddy driver never showed up.

For years I've listened to retailers complain about how hard it is to find good help. I've sat through seminars on how to attract retail sales help and I've spoken with retail human resource execs.

Cry me a river, I thought. There must be some sort of conspiracy to justify each other's existence. Everyone's in on it.

Retail sales work is a piece of cake. Surely everyone wants such a pie job.

But here we are in the midst of the worst job market that I can recall and my wife still can't find a qualified applicant. At this point an unqualified applicant would be seriously considered.

It's hard to find good help these days -- if you're a retailer.

Duke Ratliff is the executive editor of HFN. He can be reached at
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Title Annotation:unemployment grows
Publication:HFN The Weekly Newspaper for the Home Furnishing Network
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 4, 2002

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