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THE EDITORIAL BOARD

As jobs in government go begging, savvy employees can find opportunities

Today’s sobering unemployment statistics conjure images of the Great Depression. The economic downturn caused by the novel coronavirus has driven thousands of people to despondency. For someone who is out of work, finding a job would be the quickest cure for despair.

A Bloomberg News story last week showed that governments across the country are having a hard time filling open jobs. Experts figure that during society’s lockdown period of the past two months, job seekers stopped seeking, assuming their task to be impossible. That’s a false assumption that creates opportunities now for those willing to seize them.

Pundits in many corners have been preaching the virtues of using downtime to learn to code, pick up a new language, or take up some other self-improvement project. Refreshing your skills is always a good idea, but New York State’s pandemic “pause” does not mean individuals who need work are stuck on the sidelines. With jobs going begging and there being reduced competition from other job seekers, searching for a new position looks like a very worthwhile way to spend time.

The Department of Labor operates a website listing job openings across New York State, at nyhirenow.usnlx.com. As of Monday, the site advertised 1,296 in the Buffalo area. Catholic Health, with 173 posted openings, shows the most jobs up for grabs. The rest of the top 10 most listings in our region are: Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center (129), University at Buffalo (98), Centers Health Care (58), Tesla Motors (33), Evergreen Health (25), Jetro Holdings, LLC (24), Caz Recovery (18), CSL Plasma (18) and Randstad (15).

Most of the advertised jobs, of course, require certain skills and experience, but 1,315 is a lot of openings. All it takes is one good match to get off the unemployment rolls.

Many jobs are open in the health care industry, which has never been more essential, but has also suffered severe drops in revenue due to Covid-19, particularly the prohibition on elective surgeries.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced last week that New York will hire “an army” of contact tracers, people to survey those who have been recently diagnosed with Covid-19 and locate others with whom they were in contact. Cuomo said the state needs at least 30 tracers for every 100,000 people, and expects to hire up to 17,000 to do the job.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg will lead the effort to recruit and train the tracers, aided by Johns Hopkins University. Details have not emerged on how to apply to be a tracer, but it will provide an opportunity to earn money while helping stop the spread of the disease whose worldwide death toll is estimated at more than 18,000.

Nationally, the company Neogov runs governmentjobs.com, the largest government hiring site. Neogov told Bloomberg News that the number of job applications it recorded fell by 54% in the first part of April compared with a year earlier, though job openings fell by just 13%.

“It looks just like people aren’t coming; they’ve stopped searching for jobs,” Neogov CEO Shane Evangelist told Bloomberg News. “And what they’re saying is that they don’t believe jobs are available.”

And yet they are. As of Friday, governmentjobs.com listed just 10 government job openings in Buffalo, about 50 in New York City and dozens in Washington, D.C.

Many people thrown out of work this year will be re-evaluating their options. It’s at least a little comforting to know that options exist in the public sector.

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