Unemployment crisis is a matter of concern for all

While job increases in local and government educational services were seen in August, other sectors of the state economy such as leisure, hospitality and construction have seen sharp decreases. For example, construction employment is now below 100,000 jobs for the first time in more than 12 years. There are 78,900 fewer manufacturing jobs in South Carolina since this time last year.

But the figures do not tell the full story. There are areas of our diocese,  such as Allendale, Chester, Marion, Union and Marlboro counties, where unemployment exceeds 20 percent!

This compares with the county with the lowest unemployment, Lexington, with 8.2 percent unemployment, which is still unacceptably high. Moreover, even though unemployment rates have dipped a bit in the last month, the statistics only reflect the number of people who are actually still seeking employment.

One research economist, Don Schunk, Ph.D., has stated that the “data suggests that the decline in continued claims [for unemployment insurance] since spring has been due to individuals giving up on the job search, perhaps coupled with the exhaustion of unemployment insurance benefits.”

I believe the response of our Church to this crisis is a matter that should concern all of us. Our compassion for all the unemployed should be an important issue for all the parishes in our diocese.

Catholic Charities has inaugurated a program where individuals who are either seeking employment or those who have or know of employment opportunities can enter this information on a database. On a regular basis, these employment opportunities are e-mailed to those seeking employment so that they can then pursue leads for themselves.

Over 175 persons, mostly from our own Catholic churches around the diocese, have indicated that they are seeking employment. But only a handful of those with employment opportunities have come forward.

We invite employers to provide this information by going to the Catholic Charities Web site, www.supportcatholiccharities.org, and list your job opportunities there.

But more can and needs to be done to help all our brothers and sisters who seek the dignity of gainful employment. I encourage parishioners to increase your financial assistance, as well as food and clothing donations to your local parish social ministries, the St. Vincent de Paul Societies, the Knights of Columbus and other groups that work to help those most in need.

This is a time when those blessed with a steady income can assist those who need financial help while they are searching for employment themselves. I encourage parishioners to make known through various channels, such as parish bulletins, information about jobs that you know might be available either where you work or in the community.

And lastly, I ask that you pray for all those who are unemployed, that Jesus who learned firsthand the dignity of work at the hands of his carpenter foster-father, Joseph, will assist those in need and console them in this time of suffering.