Americans want to work – and after years of steady progress under President Obama, our national employment prospects are finally looking up.  Nevertheless, far more needs to be done.

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Unemployment, which reached nearly 10 percent during the depths of the Bush Recession (16 percent for African Americans), has been cut in half; and for millions of our countrymen and women, this is welcome news. 

Yet, for far too many other working families, the positive economic statistics heralding a “recovery” from the Recession must seem to be describing someone else’s country –an almost mythical society in which no one is struggling to find a good job that will pay enough to take care of their family.

Why, if our economy is improving, do millions of Americans — especially African Americans — remain trapped in slow-moving unemployment lines or marginal positions with no future?

The answers to this central question are complex, but it seems clear that they are both political and practical in nature.

It is promising that our overall rate of unemployment has dropped to around 4.7 percent.  Yet, what this number tends to disguise is the continuing, recession levels of unemployment in too many urban and rural areas.

Specifically, the national jobless rate for African Americans (8.1 percent in Feb.) remains far higher than the overall average.

Here in Maryland, the employment prospects for Black families are somewhat better, due primarily to the strong presence of federally funded agencies and programs.  This, however, is why the looming budget battles in Washington are so important locally.

Congressional Republicans are working to drastically cut federal programs that are essential to our local economy.  President Trump, despite his campaign promises to create jobs and lift wages, is seeking to slash the budgets of federal agencies and cut key job training and related employment programs in the U.S. Department of Labor to the lowest levels in 40 years.

In short, we are in a fight for the economic future of our community – a fight that we cannot afford to lose.

Even as we must keep up the pressure in Washington to fulfill the campaign promises of full employment and better wages, we also must continue to do all that we can to address the fact that too many good jobs are going unfilled here in the Baltimore Region,.

This is why, once again, my office will be hosting our 20th Annual Job Fair on April 3 (9 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the Fifth Regiment Armory, 219 29th Division St, Baltimore, Md. 21201).

Over the years, I have learned that we can be most helpful to job seekers by bringing them together with employers who are ready to hire. This year, the majority of our more than 80 participating employers will take resumes onsite — and many will be interviewing on the spot.

As always, our April 3 Job Fair is free, but photo identification will be needed to gain entrance to the Armory.  In addition, job-seekers can give themselves a competitive advantage by visiting my website in advance [cummings.house.gov] to obtain an advance listing of the participating companies and government agencies.

At our 2017 Job Fair, we once again will be offering direct support to those who are seeking to improve their lives.  Here are some highlights.

— We will offer workshops on how to apply and obtain paid, entry-level training positions with the Federal Government through its Pathways Program. Representatives from the Social Security Administration and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management will participate.

— Job Seekers will also benefit from meeting with representatives from the CHOICE Program (Community Hub for Opportunities in Construction Employment); and on-site simulators and demonstrations will help those who are looking for employment in the building and construction trades.

— A number of other service providers will provide important employment resources, such as free workshops on resume writing, interview techniques, and how to use social media in their job search.

Past experience has demonstrated that people do obtain good jobs at our Jobs Fairs. Many others have successfully followed up by utilizing our City’s One-Stop Career Centers, conveniently located at 3001 E. Madison Street (410-396-9030), and Mondawmin Mall (410-396-7873).

Baltimore County and Howard County residents have found similar help at 7930 Eastern Boulevard (410-288-9050 ext. 424), 3637 Offutt Road (410-887-8912, or 7161 Columbia Gateway Drive (410-290-2600).

Americans want to work, and, both in Washington and here at home, we must continue to invest in their dreams.

Despite the wrong-headed opposition that we now are fighting in Washington, I remain convinced that, working together, we can rebuild our economy and our communities.

Congressman Elijah Cummings represents Maryland’s 7th Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives.