App for Job Seekers

It was a “Not Your Typical Job Fair” that took over the Northeast Valley Worksource Center in Pacoima on Saturday, March 11. And it featured some untypical companies, as representatives from Uber, Lyft, and AirBnB spoke with job seekers.

There were also a few booths outside the building along Glenoaks Boulevard, but they, too, featured no representation of retail giants, nor any construction or manufacturing conglomerates. Only a couple of local nonprofits and the Los Angeles City Recreation and Parks Department.

Maybe the idea was to show that Corporate America was not the only place to begin a career. Or that perhaps Corporate America isn’t willing to search everywhere for qualified candidates.

So instead the focus centered on the stars of the “gig economy,” the employment of today and the future labor trend, where service is king and employees, employers and clients connect with each other via cell phone.

“We’re seeing a lot of people coming to ask (for jobs),” said Casey Pascual, one of the Uber representatives at the job fair. “A lot of people are already drivers and they’re looking to expand,” he said, referring to the new service Uber offers in Los Angeles, where drivers can now deliver food from restaurants to people’s homes.

The “Gig Economy”

According to “Paychecks, Paydays and the Online Platform Economy,”, a study conducted by JPMorgan Chase Institute from 2012 to 2015, states that 4.2 percent of adults (around 10.3 million people nationwide) were employed through these online platforms. At any given month, 2.5 million adults take part in this industry, according to the Institute.

It’s an exponential growth that some economists credit for helping bring an end to the recession of the mid-2000s and keeping Americans employed as paychecks, jobs and benefits get smaller.

“We’re seeing companies continuing to face challenges recruiting skilled and specialized workers, which is leading to a growing demand for ‘on-demand’ workers. It’s clear that the gig economy will play an important role in helping companies’ fuel sustainable growth,” said Susan Sobbott, president, Global Commercial Payments, American Express, in a press release regarding job outlook.

Indeed, Los Angeles, like many other cities, has bounced back from a 13 percent unemployment rate in the summer of 2013 to the 5.8 percent rate reported in February by FRED Economic Research Data.

But the gig economy has its drawbacks. For all the freedom and extra income it brings in, JP Morgan Chase Institute revealed that the money earned from these jobs often goes to complement or supplement income from regular employment, but not necessarily to replace it.

Meaning income from these “gigs” sometimes doesn’t cover all the basic necessities to live in high-cost cities like Los Angeles.

According to the Institute study, the average monthly income for someone who provided labor via one of these platforms was $533, representing a third of total income. Meanwhile, the share of active participants earning 50 percent or more of their monthly income has fallen since the summer of 2014, even though the total number making some money increased.

Looking For Younger Employees

The statistics also tends to skew towards the young. and those with low incomes.

That’s why Frank Ruiz, a Mission Hills resident, was not all that impressed with what he found at the job fair.

Ruiz, who was sharply dressed, was laid off from his job of 29 years at the Boeing Aircraft Manufacturing Plant in Long Beach, seven months shy of receiving his full pension plan.

He has experience, certifications and even a classification to work on matters of confidentiality and natural security. He is also 55.

“It’s rough. They see your gray hair and their eyes just roll. They want younger people for less pay,” Ruiz said, disappointed by job prospects after nearly a year without steady employment.

He worked for a subcontractor during the Christmas holidays, but that job ended two months ago. Since then he’s been collecting an unemployment check, which is about to end.

“I’ve even applied in Arizona. I thought it would be easy to find a job (with all my experience),” Ruiz lamented.

He said some of his co-workers left for jobs in Washington and other states. But with two kids at home and a mortgage, “I can’t just pick up like that and leave.”

And then there’s the issue of income.

It’s hard to take a new job where you’re offered much less than with your previous employer. Ruiz knows this. So does Omar Flores, 36, a Chatsworth resident who also came to the job fair looking for options after being laid off from his visual effects work in November.

The work, which was extremely specialized, paid very well. But many of jobs were moved overseas.

“I’m trying to venture into other fields,” Flores said, while perusing the different booths.

“There’s some companies here worth looking into, like (Managed by Q, an office cleaning and management company),” he said. “But most of it is driving jobs, delivery jobs, even valet parking.

“I’m being left with no choice but looking for something else. I have to accommodate, adapt to the changes. I don’t want to, but if I have to get more than one job, I’ll do it. I have to pay the bills.”