Monday, May 21 , 2018, 4:51 am | Fair 52º



Long-Term Unemployed Debate Their Next Move — Out of Santa Barbara?

The struggle to find work forces local job seekers to consider last resorts, including relocating and dumbing down a résumé

Crystal Carlson calls it the Santa Barbara struggle.

“There is already someone who has more (than us), and most of us have made a sacrifice to stay here,” she said. “We could make more in another town and pay less in another town.

“You are reminded what you don’t have every day.”

Carlson’s sacrifice has come in the form of her job. The bilingual Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo social science graduate earned a master’s degree in clinical psychology from Antioch University Santa Barbara. Despite an extensive background in the mental health industry, the 49-year-old Carlson has been living off unemployment and a seasonal job for the past 18 months.

“I work for the city, even though it pays badly,” said Carlson, adding that she hasn’t been able to find a job in the mental health field in the $12- to $15-an-hour range. “I do it for the dignity piece, knowing I have a lot of skills and I’m working rather than not give a ding and hang out at the beach.”

Carlson said she has taken her master’s degree off her résumé so she can qualify for more positions.

“If the skill set you bring is considered important and you have enthusiasm or think outside the box, it’s perceived as a threat,” she said.

Santa Barbara County’s unemployment rate mirrors the national figure at 9.1 percent, but well below the 12 percent statewide rate.

Nationally, there weren’t any new jobs created in August — the worst result during the past year — and employers have cut back hiring and shaved hours for existing employees.

“I don’t know where to start again,” Carlson said. “To up and leave might be easier than staying.”

Lindsay Sanchez, 28, echoes the sentiment. The Santa Barbara native is a certified esthetician and has 10 years of retail management experience, but she hasn’t found work for the past four months.

“I was born and raised here and I graduated from SBCC,” Sanchez said. “I don’t want to leave my family. I want to raise my own here, but I might have to leave to find better opportunities.”

Consumer confidence dropped sharply last month because of Washington gridlock, leaving employers feeling uneasy, according to Labor Secretary Hilda Solis.

“People are very cautious about doing any hiring because of the economy, and people who are working are getting hours cut back to less than a livable wage,” said Julie Holmes, a supervisor at the California Department of Rehabilitation.

Holmes recommended keeping work history up to date by volunteering, joining networking groups and mastering the online application process.

“Some think the more résumés you get out there, the greater chance of employment, but once you’ve lost focus on what it is you’re trying to obtain then you start wasting time,” she said. “Focus on what employers are looking for in a certain area and tailor your résumé to each position.

“A lot of applications are being scanned by computers, so you have to make sure your résumé has those keywords in it.”

Carlson said whether it means taking extra classes or cutting back expenses, she isn’t giving up yet.

“I have a lot of friends who are in my position who are leaving town,” she said. “But I’ll do what I need to stay.”

Noozhawk business writer Alex Kacik can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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