It's jobs day, so here's a picture of a career fair

In keeping with well-established convention, an image of a job fair in New York

Friday morning the Labor Department reported that the U.S. added 217,000  jobs in May, and the unemployment rate stayed the same at 6.3 percent.

Whether it’s here at Marketplace, elsewhere online or in newspapers, stories about the latest unemployment numbers need pictures. In the past, news outlets used images of people in line at the unemployment office. But nowadays, people can sign up for jobless benefits by phone or online.

So today, when news photographers need fresh pictures of lots and lots of unemployed people, they take their cameras to career fairs. Then, each month when the jobless numbers come out, like clockwork, scores of websites and newspapers will dutifully use these photos, repeatedly, in their stories reporting the news.

This endless monthly wallpaper of career fair images got us wondering about what actually happens inside them. Does anyone actually get jobs, or are they a waste of time for job seekers? What kind of companies show up? Who makes money off these events? Are they changing as the economy slowly improves?

Find the answer to all those questions and more, by clicking that play button on the audio player above.

Because, let’s be honest, you can only learn so much about job fairs by looking at these stock photos:

Job fairs are normally held in drab hotel ballrooms

Organizers sometimes try to dress the joints up with balloons, but it makes it look worse, really. However it apparently makes the image more appealing to photo editors. This particular shot has been used over and over.

Job fairs involve a lot of silently waiting in line

Job Fair Held In Midtown Manhattan

Career fairs tend to be packed, with lines wrapping around the block and job seekers arriving hours before they open to get the first crack at employers. Job seekers do a lot of talking to prospective employers, but hardly talk to each other at all. So while waiting to get in front of employers, they play with their phones…

 …stare at their resumes or jot down notes.

Job fairs keep office supply companies in business

The printed resume is something of a dying artifact as the job application process has steadily moved online. But the printed page is alive and well in the world of job fairs, where job seekers tote stacks of resumes from table to table, which are in turn stacked high with pamphlets and promotional materials from the employers.

Job fairs give Millennials a chance to expand their love of vintage items

By introducing them to items their parents refer to as “paper,” “clipboards” and “pens.”


Job fairs are an excellent place for briefcase enthusiasts to see these objects at use in the wild.

Possibly, the best place.

About the author

Mark Garrison is a reporter for Marketplace and substitute host for the Marketplace Morning Report, based in New York.

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