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Briarwood job fair brings hope for work

Months or years of unemployment may end for Queens residents who attended a job fair in Briarwood last week, at least according to a woman on the other side of the table.

“We have so many jobs to help people,” said Nancy Konipol, who works with Queens Workforce1. “This is a big need here and in Jamaica, where there are tons of people needing jobs.”

Workforce1 is part of the city Small Business Services division. The agency is affiliated with well over 50 businesses in need of employees, according to Konipol. Many of the positions are in retail, home health aides and transportation sectors. Other, more specific jobs were available, but did not make up the bulk of the offerings.

“These are high-volume jobs,” she said.

But many of the 30 residents who filed into the conference room at the Briarwood Public Library, at 85-12 Main St., were not being picky. They sat with résumés in hand. Some dressed in power suits and sleek dresses, others seemed to have seen the sign taped outside and simply wandered in.

Nordia Sterling was snappily dressed, but has been out of work for two years. She was a home attendant for six years and lived in the Bronx before losing her job. She could not afford her apartment and had to check into a shelter, where she was later moved to Queens.

“It’s really hard,” she said. “My family doesn’t know I’m in a shelter. It’s embarrassing.”

Sterling said the fair did not have what she was looking for: a job in retail or food service.

Another Queens woman said she does not care what kind of job comes along because she has two children and bills to pay.

“I’m always positive,” said Flushing resident Vanessa Marrugo. “I have to be. I keep my phone in my hand in case anybody calls.”

The mother of two has been out of work for two years. She previously worked for nearly a decade at an auto dealer that later went out of business. After that job, she went back to school to get certified as a medical assistant and phlebotomy technician, a person who draws blood.

But the certificates proved useless in the current job market.

“I’ve been to three of these job fairs,” she said.

Marrugo said she had also been receiving long-term unemployment benefits, which helped her keep afloat while she scoured the city for work.

Those benefits could run out for millions of Americans in January unless Congress votes to extend them, which Marrugo said would be helpful to the city’s unemployed.

“It’s so helpful for bills,” she said. “You could survive.”

Marrugo said that while receiving the government money, she never stopped looking for work.

“I’ve been working since I was 16,” she said. “And the unemployment office sent out letters to help people find jobs.”

The current nationwide unemployment rate is at 9.8 percent, where according to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke it will hover for the years to come.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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