1,600-plus applicants for three dozen jobs

I read the following dispatch from my former home town this morning.

HAGERSTOWN, Md. — When the Good Humor ice cream plant closed here two summers ago, more than 400 jobs and a stable, punch-the-clock way of life melted away, another in a string of plant closings that have battered this once-proud manufacturing town.

The hulking plant sat vacant until a co-op of Virginia dairy farmers purchased it in summer 2013 to process milk and ice cream, though on a far smaller scale than the 60,000 cases of ice cream that global food giant Unilever churned out every day.

Randy Inman, the board president for Shenandoah Family Farms, said he expected the plant’s revival to trigger plenty of interest in its three dozen or so initial jobs. What he did not expect: 1,600 applicants and counting — a deluge.

Many applicants are desperate former employees still without work in a county with 7.3 percent unemployment and in an economy where manufacturing job openings now require more specialized abilities than the lower-skilled positions that have gone overseas or, in the case of Unilever, to Tennessee and Missouri, where labor and operating costs are cheaper.

via The Washington Post.

I’m glad the Washington Post is reporting on this, but in my experience this kind of situation is neither new or unusual.  I remember when I was reporting on business here in Rochester, N.Y., 20 and 25 years ago, any announcement that a company was hiring would result in a line of job-seekers, comparable to Black Friday shoppers, who would start getting in line at midnight or earlier so as to be one of the first in the door when the office opened. My job-seeking friends tell me things are just the same today.

The Republicans (along with some Democrats) in Congress who don’t want to extend unemployment benefits think that the secret to getting people back to work is to give them a kick in the pants rather than a helping hand.

It is true that there is a hard-core group of people who lack motivation and forethought, and probably would do badly even in a high-wage, full-employment economy.   Even with the so-called underclass, there might be more hope for their children if they had more evidence that staying in school and working hard paid off.

As the Washington Post article illustrates, even people with a strong desire to work are up against it.


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