The greatest need for the survivors of Katrina will be jobs — jobs and relocation and homes and money and emotional support, but it starts with jobs.
The State of Louisiana says that there are 750,000 now jobless from the New Orleans metro area alone. God knows what the figures from elsewhere are.
As I’ve written before, New Orleans already had a depressed economy that was dependent primarily on tourism, which will take years to rebuild. The infrastructure of the city, its businesses, and its housing stock are in ruin. Many in the New Orleans diaspora will not want to return (see this story from Nashville today; I heard an NBC report this morning saying that an informal survey of survivors in shelters found 80 percent would not return). Many will have nothing to return to. They will need to find jobs and homes and new lives elsewhere. I’ve read accounts of the professional classes already setting down new roots in new places; this will certainly happen among the working poor as well.
Thanks to the internet and all the job services that now use it, it will be easier to help connect these people to jobs than ever before.
I challenge those services and newspapers to come together to help match these people with jobs anywhere in America. What’s needed:
1. A concerted effort to gather names, skills, and backgrounds of every survivor who wants to work. This can be a single data base. This can be pages anywhere on the web tagged with agreed-upon tags, brought together by a search engine like IceRocket.
2. Communication to employers to have them note jobs that can be filled by survivors — particularly employers willing to pay for relocation and even housing as gestures of support. These job services can encourage those employers to do that because they are in communication with virtually every major employer in the country.
3. Coordination with charities willing to help with relocation in terms of housing and transportation.
4. Connectivity for the jobless. How do we get machines, access, and volunteers into shelters and communities where survivors are living with relatives and in hotels to connect these people with opportunities? In a post I’ll put up shortly called Recovery 2.0, I’ll link to a few of these efforts.
It is a big task. But I believe connecting people with jobs will be the single most important outreach and help needed by the survivors of the storm. And I believe that technology today is uniquely suited to meet this need — if the big companies involved step up and lead. So… Monster? Yahoo’s HotJobs? A newspaper or two? Can you help?