Costco Job Fair Draws Thousands
Shelton Roseboro spent 15 years as a technician at the Library of Congress and a year at the World Bank downtown in the legal records department. But circumstances change.
Roseboro, who has been unemployed for two years, came to the Costco job fair "for an opportunity to land a job." He counted among the thousands who filed through the doors of Mount Horeb Baptist Church in Northeast, with resume in hand, on Saturday, July, 28.
"I would be willing to work in a managerial position or customer service," said Roseboro, a 56-year-old Ward 5 resident.
He stood out among the job seekers because he wore a black suit, blue shirt, a light-colored tie and dress shoes, while most in the crowd wore casual clothing and a few wore white t-shirts, tennis shoes and flip-flops.
Roseboro said professionals and clerical workers do not have as tough a time finding employment as others, but "attempting to land a position in your field is challenging."
Jobs, or the lack of them, remain a thorn in the side of those residents who want to be gainfully employed and city officials are doing what they can to lower the city's unemployment rate.
The District's economy is considered to be strong in the eyes of many economists but unemployment remains a problem.
The city's June jobless rate is 9.1 percent, according to numbers compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics that are given to the District's Department of Employment Services [DOES]. Because it's declining, the city no longer participates in a federal program that pays for emergency unemployment insurance. While that's good news, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray (D) said that far too many Washingtonians are out of work.
"Those who don't have a job don't care about the statistics," Gray, 69, said at the Costco job fair.
Statistics show that Ward 5, where Mount Horeb is located, had an unemployment rate of 12.2 percent in June, while Ward 8 in Southeast, had 22.5 percent, the highest in the city.
Costco, the world's seventh largest retailer and the largest membership club chain in the United States, is building its first store in Ward 5. The store is scheduled to open in November and will be an anchor of the Shops at Dakota Crossing in Northeast with 154,000-square-feet out of 437,000 that will eventually include a Shoppers Food Warehouse, Lowe's, Marshalls and spaces for local businesses, a bank and a sit-down restaurant.
Costco is expected to hire 160 workers of the 1,200 employees who will ultimately be employed by Dakota Crossing businesses. It's estimated that the project will generate $635 million over 30 years in tax revenue.
Ward 5 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Robert King, who coordinated the job fair, said he expected maybe hundreds to show up for interviews and the chance to submit their resumes to Costco, but was really not shocked that thousands showed interest in working for the company.
"The unemployment situation is bad," said King, 61. "In some parts of the city, it is twice the national norm. This is a great opportunity for people to look at Costco because the company has never had a job fair before."
Ward 5 residents, King said, are the intended beneficiaries, but he's not surprised that a number of job seekers came from Ward 8.
"I guess they walked on over here," he said.
Ward 8 resident Victor White came to the job fair for a simple reason.
"I came here to get a job and support my kids," said White, 42. "There are not too many jobs in D.C."
White, who said he worked for Mama's Kitchen in Southeast until a few weeks ago, has not filed for unemployment insurance. He said he wants to work in Costco's warehouse or operate a forklift.
Rickysha Harris, who also lives in Ward 8, came to the job fair "looking for a job" and "will take any type of work."
"The job market is not good at all," said Harris, 18. "I would like to be a server but I will work any position as long as it's a job."
Harris pointed to a few people around her who were family and friends, all looking for work at Costco. She holds a GED and would like to go to Spelman College in Atlanta.
"I hope that Costco will help me go to college," she said.
One of the most interesting aspects of the city's unemployment picture is the number of professionals and clerical workers who are jobless or underemployed. The June jobs report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and DOES, said that professionals and business services sectors gained 2,400 jobs after a 1,200 job loss in May.
On the other hand, leisure and hospitality dropped 900 jobs in June, according to the Bureau's report, after a gain of 1,300 jobs in May. These mixed reports in mainly white and pink collar jobs have created an uneasy situation for many District residents.
King said that he's working closely with Gray's "One City-One Hire" initiative and with the office of D.C. Council member Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5) to ensure that resumes and employment information of the job seekers gets into the city's employment database. King also said that he will monitor the construction of the Costco and the rest of the Dakota Crossing project to make sure that D.C.-based workers and businesses are included.
King said the efforts of Michele Hagans, the developer for Dakota Crossing, cannot be ignored.
"She sold the land to Costco and we are grateful for her work," he said. "She has played a role in bringing Big Box retailers to this project. This is a great day for Ward 5."