LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) Labor Day is meant to celebrate the achievements of hard working Americans but for those still looking for a job in a tough economy, the celebration is not as sweet.
It is a reality for thousands of Arkansans. Some working jobs far below their qualifications, others without work all together. While the numbers say things are getting better, for those still looking for jobs staying afloat is still a struggle.
Mark Riley has been looking for work since last July when funding for his PR job at a local college simply went away.
"The state legislative budget committee cut the college's budget and the only way they could make that cut was to cut some personnel," says Riley.
A short time later, Riley's wife Beverly lost her job at a local charter school. Both of them have college degrees and years of experience but after more than a year of searching, neither of them have found work.
"A year ago we were doing fine. We were middle-class and not struggling to pay bills and now all of a sudden we're looking for the money to pay the bills," says Beverly Riley.
Though times are tough, The Department of Workforce Services says they are better this labor day than last. Arkansas' unemployment rate for July came in at 7.3% down from 8.2% a year ago.
Still, the job search for the Riley's has come up empty. Mark even drafted a billboard design to try to reach potential employers but finding the money to put it up has been a challenge.
"I have a 2002 Kia Sportage and a little black trailer so I've been doing some moving and light hauling for people," says Riley.
While they wait on full-time work, the Riley's are spending their time helping others who may also be in their shoes.
"We volunteer two days a month at a local food bank. We feel like we need to give back to the community even if we can't do it as people who are working," says Mark Riley. "We know there is a light at the end of the tunnel and we're pretty convinced it's not an oncoming train."
The Department of Workforce services says volunteering is one of the best things you can do to help your job search. Not only are you gaining skills and helping your community, you're meeting new people and making contacts, sometimes that is all it takes to get your foot in the door.