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Natalie Shepherd / Eyewitness News
Email: nshepherd@wwltv.com | Twitter: @NewsNatalie

NEW ORLEANS - Damien Dix just turned 18, and as a recent high school graduate, he's trying to land his first job. He's not being picky.

'Any job, really. A department store, shoe store, retail. Anything,' Dix said, while working at a computer station at Job1, the city of New Orleans job center.

Dix is getting help from career advisers at Job1 on everything from resume writing to how to fill out a job application, and even how to access job training. It's a valuable resource for job seekers like Dix. Each year, roughly 12,000 people go there for employment help.

'I feel good about it,' he said. 'I feel like they'll get me a job. I feel like this is a good place to come.'

Dix grew up in the 9th ward, but moved out of state after Hurricane Katrina. He returned to New Orleans recently.

And while he has a positive outlook on the future, not everyone shares his optimism.

Maurice Curtis, 26, works in a restaurant. He says looking for a job can be discouraging.

'Everybody's worried about the pay down here. Jobs are not paying too much. Your money is only lasting three days out of a week,' Curtis explained.

Curtis has career aspirations, but right now, he's just trying to make ends meet.

'I like interior design. I like dealing with houses,' he said.

During a public forum last week, unemployed construction worker Gregory Jordan echoed Curtis's sentiment.

'I haven't had a job, and I'm still looking for a job,' he said.

Jordan questioned Mayor Mitch Landrieu about jobs in the city. He said he hasn't had a steady job in five years.

'This been going on since Katrina. Everyone acts like they're blind to this fact. Nobody says nothing about this,' Jordan told a packed crowd at L.B. Landry High School in Algiers.

But that's not exactly true.

The mayor himself acknowledges the startling statistic about unemployment among African-American men in New Orleans.

'52 percent of African American are not working,' Landrieu told his audience.

That's compared to 7.5 percent unemployment in the city overall. The unemployment rate in the state of Louisiana is just 6.2 percent.

'If you've ever been out of work, that's not fun. So I think we all have a concept, being here in America, of what that American dream is,' said Nadiyah Morris.

Morris is the mayor's director of workforce development, and she oversees Job1.

She said getting people back to work has to be a top concern in order for New Orleans to succeed.

'As a city, we're stronger. So, the more individuals we have that are working, who are paying taxes, who are able to fully participate, the better we are as a city,' she said.

Statistics show when people have jobs -- crime goes down, parents are better able to take care of their kids, and grades go up. Morris said it's all connected, but she realizes not everyone is going to come fill out applications at Job1, so the center sends outreach workers into the community to try and connect with people who need work.

'We have to go to them sometimes, and that's ok, too,' Morris said. 'But we want to make sure that everyone has an opportunity.'

Morris said construction, electrical, plumbing, digital media, medical fields are all booming in New Orleans and job training is available. She knows there isn't quick fix to the unemployment problems currently facing the city, but she stresses that it is a priority.

'There's no reason that any person should feel like, I can just never make it,' Morris said.

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