Job Fair “Madhouse” Dissapoints Many

Unofficial job fair draws thousands

On the day that the state announced the third-largest decline in unemployment thousands of people tried to pack into an ex-offender job fair.

Statistics released Friday by the state Department of Labor & Industry showed that 13,00 new jobs were created last month while unemployment dropped three-tenth of a percentage point to 7.6 percent. Despite the drop, nearly 500,000 Pennsylvanians still remain without a job.

Despite the drop getting a job still isn't easy, especially for those with criminal records. And, that desire to find work literally pushed people -- resumes in hand -- towards the door of the the Philadelphia Municipal Services Building in Center City, according to witnesses.

The event wasn’t a publicly advertised, according to Mayor Michael Nutter’s office. However, it wound up being shared on Facebook after flyers and emails went out to businesses that normally hire convicts.

Around two thousand people showed up for the third edition of the ex-convict job fair at the Municipal Services Building, said Nutter's Chief of Staff Everett Gillison.

Gillison admits that the city wasn't prepared for the amount of job seekers this year. The influx of job seekers without criminal records caused things to get out of hand. 

"I figured because I had a very strong resume that I should come down and take advantage of the opportunity," said Donnita Mitchell, who is not an ex-convict but had heard about the job fair on Facebook.

After standing in line for hours, Mitchell said things got out of hand.

"It was a madhouse, unorganized, just mass confusion," Mitchell said. "At one point the crowd just dispersed and ran towards the door."

Fellow job seeker David Coates, who served 2-1/2 years for robbery heard of the event through the Veteran's Affairs office. He was hoping to find work as a mechanic but said he never got the chance.

"There was no organization... we got by the door and that was when they said 'we're shutting it down,'" Coates told NBC10 Philadelphia.

Philadelphia Police were called in around 10:30 a.m. after things got a little out of hand. Luckily, police were able to disperse the crowd and there were no reports of injuries.

It was unclear how many potential employers were at the event and when the doors were set to open.

The event left many disappointed.

West Philadelphia's Kimberly Richardson, 44, told NBC10 Philadelphia that she felt humiliated.

"They knew the outcome. They know how many people on Philly went to prison," Richardson, who served time for retail theft, said.

She said she'll be back again when they reschedule but feels disappointed.

"It makes my day depressing," she said.

Nutter's office says the city will plan on rescheduling the job fair at the larger Pennsylvania Convention Center in the near future.

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