Congress, spooked by summer town halls, tries jobs fairs instead
The health-care reform protests of 2009 have made members of Congress worried about holding traditional summer town halls. As an alternative, some are holding jobs fairs.
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A former state lawmaker, Wilson began developing contacts with local businesses long before coming to Washington. But aides say that she has used contacts with business groups asking for her help in Congress to enlist their participation in jobs fairs.Skip to next paragraph
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Freshman Rep. Benjamin Quayle (R) of Arizona told staff as he took office that the No. 1 concern had to be job creation and to schedule events that reflected that. On Aug. 10, he sponsored a jobs fair promising some 6,000 openings in northern Phoenix and neighboring Paradise Valley. While Arizona’s unemployment rate is 9.3 percent, unemployment in Paradise Valley is well above the national average of 9.2 percent.
“It’s difficult for people to travel around to find jobs, especially with high gas prices,” says Congressman Quayle. “Any small thing we can do to help people to get back to work is something we wanted to pursue.”
He also held a forum with local business groups to find out what was preventing them from more hiring. Answer: uncertainty about new government regulation.
In Phoenix, as in the CBC jobs fairs, it’s not clear how many participants actually found a job. “We did hear from some employers who give out offers, and many said they had follow-up interviews,” says Quayle.
Freshman Rep. Jim Renacci (R) of Ohio, a former local businessman and car dealer, began meeting regularly with a local business groups to discuss jobs soon after his upset election in November 2010. Unemployment in his old industrial district has been as high as 14 percent in the last 18 months. He spent several months investigating whether there was enough interest in hiring to make a jobs fair useful.
“It’s difficult around here,” says James Slepian, Congressman Renacci’s chief of staff. “A lot of people looking for jobs do not know where to start, or may have too narrow a focus. But when you put them in front of 100 employers, it opens up opportunities they may not have thought of.”
Renacci’s jobs fair on June 27 was the first in the state sponsored by a member of Congress, aides say.
Congressional leaders would like to see more.
“Jobs are job No. 1 for House Republicans, and members are encouraged to continue hosting these fairs as an effective way to connect job seekers, with job creators, and promote our economic growth policies,” says Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R) of Texas, who chairs the House Republican Conference, in an e-mail.
“Democrats have been fighting to get Congress to focus on jobs all year,” says Ellis Brachman, a spokesman for the House Democratic Caucus, in an e-mail. “House Democrats across the country are having events in their districts of all types – from town halls to job fairs to business visits and many other things.”