The D.C. government yesterday opened two new neighborhood job centers where, officials promise, residents will soon be able to take advantage of services such as applying for unemployment benefits.

The two centers -- at 1319 H St. NE and 1000 U St. NW -- are part of an effort to make it easier for citizens to take advantage of job-related services by making them available in neighborhoods around the city, officials said. One such center was opened earlier this year in far Southeast, and three more are planned.

Residents currently can participate in D.C. Department of Employment Services programs like counseling, testing and job placement at the neighborhood centers, which were opened today in brief ceremonies attended by Mayor Marion Barry.

But the service that is perhaps most time-consuming and inconvenient for many citizens -- applying for unemployment -- will not be available for about two months, a government spokesman said.

To sign up for unemployment, D.C. residents must now go to one central office at 500 C St. NW, where some applicants have complained of eight-hour waiting periods before being helped.

City spokeswoman Kathy Williams said the unemployment opertion cannot be transferred to the neighborhood centers until an overhaul of the entire unemployment system is completed, which she said should take about two months.

The new system, Williams said, will eliminate the need for unemployment recipients to report periodically to government offices in order to continue receiving their payments.