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D.C. Slow To Reduce Its Ranks Of Jobless

An increasing number of D.C. hotel jobs appear to be held by people who live outside the city, according to Local 25. In the 1970s, nearly 80 percent of hotel union members lived in the District, compared with about 60 percent now.

More of the District's jobs are going to people who live outside the city, according to the 2000 Census. In 1990, 67.6 percent of District jobs were held by residents of the suburbs; by 2000, 71.6 percent were.

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People like Shaw are struggling to fight the trend.

Shaw, who lives with her mother, set off for work on a Saturday in June just as the sun was rising. Wearing black polyester pants and a gray security guard uniform shirt, she walked slowly to the bus stop at the corner of 18th Street SE and Trenton Place. She was setting off for her first day of paid work ever, manning the front desk at a retirement home in Northwest.

She was too nervous to sleep much the night before, and when her alarm blared at 5:45 a.m., it was so startling she thought she was imagining it. She had made a ham and cheese sandwich to tide her over during a 12-hour workday, but did not pack it. "I'm too nervous to eat," she said.

She leaned on a low fence next to the bus stop, a mix of anxiety and exhaustion on her face. It was not yet 7 o'clock and her feet already hurt from the hand-me-down black shoes her uncle gave her.

"They gave us the uniform, but the shoes would've cost $50," said Shaw. It was not an investment she wanted to make for a job that pays $9 an hour.

The bus came at 7:20, three minutes late.

Shaw's neighborhood, Shipley Terrace -- and her own difficulties in entering the labor force -- show the problems the District faces in trying to find more jobs for its residents.

The 23 percent unemployment rate in the neighborhood around her only captures part of the problem. That number counts only adults looking for work unsuccessfully as unemployed. Many more have dropped out of the labor force entirely, because they no longer want a job or have given up hope of finding one. Only 51.9 percent of neighborhood residents were in the labor force in 2000, compared with 63.9 percent nationwide.


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