Podcast Special: What's working in the job market


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    Eric Kelley rides the Number 2 line down Sunset Blvd. in Los Angeles.

    - Matt Berger / Marketplace

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    Eddie Lezama, a student and regular bus passenger, boarded the Number 2 at its first stop on Sunset Blvd.

    - Matt Berger / Marketplace

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    Los Angeles resident Maxwell Fleming is a semi-regular rider of the the Number 2 Sunset line. He says he's remained employed during the down economy and is optimistic about his future.

    - Matt Berger / Marketplace

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    Boris Dralyuk teaches Russian lit at UCLA. We spoke with him about his economic outlook during his bus ride through a section of Sunset Blvd.

    - Matt Berger / Marketplace

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    The Number 2 bus in Los Angeles travels 26 miles through the city on Sunset Blvd. It begins at this street sign in the Chinatown district of downtown LA, snaking its way to the Pacific Coast Highway - nearly a 2 hour bus ride start to finish.

    - Matt Berger / Marketplace

The number: 103,000.

That's how many jobs were created in the month of September according to the Labor Department. But the unemployment rate remained steady.

Already this month, we've seen competing job proposals from President Obama and Congress. We've seen presidential hopefuls debate government's role in job creation. But what we haven't seen is a close examination of what's working in the job market.

Marketplace hit the road, visiting communities across the country where jobs have been added, where companies are hiring, where Americans are finding their way back into the labor market. So where are the bright spots? And are they are bright enough to energize the economy?

Sunset Boulevard: 26 miles through the economy

Host Kai Ryssdal gets on the No. 2 bus in Los Angeles to travel more than 26 miles through the city east to west. The bus cuts across the economic landscape of Los Angeles: working class neighborhoods, Hollywood, UCLA, and the Pacific Ocean. Along the way, you see how the city is changing, how the city is working to put people back to work, how students are faring in this economy.

The economic engine of Los Angeles is in shift, just like the careers of many that ride the bus to work in the morning. What they'll tell you is that they're digging in, charting a new course in this economic climate. Some want to go back school. Others are moving from gig to gig. And many are doing the best they can.

Industry is strong in North Dakota

"North Dakota is probably the biggest industrial project going on in the United States of America right now." That's according to Jim Arthaud, who runs Missouri Basin trucking in Belfield North Dakota.

The national unemployment rate remains at 9.1 percent. But that's just an average. In some states, that figure is as high as 14 percent. But there's one state that's bucking the trend: North Dakota.

The state has the lowest unemployment rate in the country, just around 3 percent. In fact, the state is desperately trying to find enough workers to fill thousands of open jobs. And those jobs are across all sectors: accountants, fast food workers, oil drillers.

So is there a lesson in North Dakota for the rest of the country? Can that glimmer of economic hope spread?

Optimism on Sunset Blvd.

"You know you have to maintain a positive state of mind. I mean, I was raised by my grandparents. I was taught that things used to be much much worst. I haven't had to go to a soup kitchen yet. I haven't had to sell too many things.
So it could be a lot worse."

That quote comes from Eric Kelley. He was an architectural drafter until the recession. But the construction slowdown means no need for his drawings.

During an interview with Kelley on the No. 2 bus line, Kelly said he stays positive. He's gone back to school with the hope of learning new skills.

Resiliency and resolve, making things work in the job market. That's coming up on The Breakdown.

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.

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