Immigrant workers struggling to find jobs

December 5, 2008 6:38:07 PM PST
The Christmas Carols playing in a Chinatown lunchroom were a welcome respite Friday from the rapidly-declining health of the economy.

But, just down the hall was a stark reminder that the job market is in deep trouble.

Su Yu Zhu is an engineer who emigrated from China last year. She says her degree is meaningless here so she'll take any job.

Zhu says her biggest obstacle is that she cannot speak English well and that limits her job search.

The Chinatown Workforce Center operated by the Chinese Newcomers Service center moved into new facilities in April. In the first three days more than 300 people walked in unannounced.

"Four weeks later we looked at assessment cards. It's close to 1000 people in four weeks, 18 working days," said a company spokesperson.

The vast majority of job seekers at the center are new immigrants with limited English skills. Since the recession that demographic has changed.

More white-collar workers are showing up.

47-year old Wong Chiu Ming worked as an electronic technician for 15 years. His company laid him off three months ago.

When asked if looking for work has been difficult, he replied, "Really, really difficult, because the economic situation is getting worse outside so it's hard to find a job."

Jobs are also getting harder to find at the other end of the job spectrum.

"Even janitors are not getting as many jobs as they were before. Because if the company could clean the place three times a week they're going to do it three times a week, not seven days a week," said Stephen Chan with the center.

58-year old Mei Ying Lin worked two jobs, as a seamstress during the day and in a meat plant at night. She was laid off from both jobs. Lin helps support a family of five.

She says because of her limited English, she can only do menial jobs such as cleaning and as a caretaker.

This center would even be more crowded but many have simply quit looking for jobs out of sheer frustration.


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