Thousands of people filed through the George R. Brown Convention Center where one of the city’s largest job fairs is underway. As Houston Public Radio’s Laurie Johnson reports, a number of New Orleans employers came to the job fair hoping to find workers, but there were few takers.
Job seekers were lined up outside well before the doors opened. When it was time, they made their way inside the building, through registration and then into the exhibit hall where more than 150 employers were recruiting for more than 5,000 openings. Sue Cruver is with the Worksource, a non-profit job placement organization that sponsored regional job fair. She says they’ve been working with the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry to help Louisiana employers recruit evacuees who are currently living here.
“We worked directly with them to get the word out in Louisiana that we were having this event. And as a result, we have over 13 employers from Louisiana who are here with about 600 or more jobs available.”
The jobs are there, but the people willing to move back to New Orleans aren’t. Cliff Morton is recruiting unskilled workers for off-shore work. He says he has jobs for anyone, all you need is a driver’s licence and a high school diploma. But the Houston job fair has been a bust for him.
“So far no. No, not yet. We haven’t been finding anybody. We’re getting some local people here but not folks that moved to Houston that want to come back. Matter of fact, one that we talked to earlier said that they moved here and they were going to stay here. So not yet, no luck.”
Just across the row, Bruce Johnston is also trying to fill positions in New Orleans. He has openings for everything from dock workers to engineers, but he’s running into the same problem, no one wants to return for the simple reason that there’s nowhere for them to live.
“We have talked to others from New Orleans who have indicated they’re not interested in moving back because of housing. That’s a major problem still in the city of New Orleans. I think probably if we categorized it, that would be the major problem in terms of the folks that are still here that would otherwise perhaps be interested but they don’t have a place to live.”
Sheryl Swilley came to Houston one day after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. She says it’s been surprisingly difficult to find a steady job here, but she and her husband are going to settle in Houston.
“We plan to stay here. My husband has a heart transplant and because of uncertainties about how the conditions at home would affect his immune system his doctor recommended we not return. So we said no brainer! Houston’s a nice place, you know nice places to shop, nice places to eat, nice places to live so we’re going to stay.”
Laurie Johnson Houston Public Radio News.