Internet Services Help Americans Connect to Jobs

With the U.S. unemployment rate at 9.4 percent this past December, many Americans continue to face a difficult economic outlook. For tens of millions, finding reliable, well-paying jobs is still an ongoing struggle. With limited job openings, the biggest hurdle is often knowing where to look — and today that means going online.

Forty percent of respondents to a recent Institute for Museum and Library Services survey said they used library computers and Internet access for "employment or career purposes." Meanwhile, more than 80 percent of Fortune 500 companies only accept job applications online.

In West Virginia, a state with an 9.3 percent unemployment rate and home to many counties at 10 percent and higher, helping citizens find elusive jobs has become a priority. A new online initiative of the West Virginia Department of Commerce, WorkForce West Virginia, allows users to browse a wealth of job openings and sign up for career counseling and resume building services. The website also features training and education courses that make applicants more competitive in the job market.

With job search and applications moving online, the digital divide leaves many populations shut out of the virtual job hunt. An unemployed worker who can hardly pay her monthly rent is unlikely to be able to afford Internet services and a job seeker nearing retirement may not have the web literacy necessary to effectively utilize online services.

In both of these cases, expanded broadband connectivity and literacy is crucial. Expanding access to free Internet at libraries and schools, and providing training for those who need it would empower the unemployed to access the services they need.

Expanded access to online job listings requires an equal investment in connecting the unemployed to the web. As our economy becomes ever more entangled with our digital future, these investments become necessary to our growth.

The Employment Situation - December 2010 (BLS)

Expanding Opportunities in the Hispanic Community: Solutions for Increased Broadband Access (National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators)

Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary (BLS)

West Virginia Department of Commerce WorkForce WV