As G-20 leaders meet, Pa. residents wonder about jobs

World leaders who gathered Thursday less than 10 miles from this struggling Pittsburgh borough to take stock of the improving world economy could learn a thing or two from William Hooper.

An electrician by trade, but most recently a truck driver, Hooper has been jobless for more than a year. He has used up his unemployment benefits and his savings. He has trained for hazardous materials cleanup work and taken hourly jobs as a janitor.

"I guess this is the trickle-down effect, huh?" Hooper, 52, says at the Braddock Employment and Training Center, one of many sites around Pittsburgh where the jobless get retrained. "I don't feel like anything has changed."

It's a message Group of 20 leaders are hearing, from protesters in the streets to leaders of international development agencies: Long after the economic stimuli and financial bailouts have been applied, jobs still lag.

Hundreds of protesters commanded attention Thursday by clashing with police in downtown Pittsburgh, rolling trash bins and throwing rocks to protest capitalism. Meantime, stories told by victims of the longest recession since the 1930s were a reminder of continuing tough times.

The grim jobs picture is one reason the G-20 leaders aren't likely to roll back aggressive government aid at today's summit. The International Monetary Fund projects unemployment will increase through 2010. Among 33 advanced economies, 27 will see higher jobless rates next year, the IMF says.

Also today, the leaders will announce that the G-20 will replace the Group of Eight as permanent council on global economic cooperation, a U.S. administration official told the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the announcement hadn't been made.

In Pennsylvania and a majority of states, workers can get up to 79 weeks of unemployment benefits because of extensions approved by Congress in this year's $787 billion stimulus package. About 400,000 people risk running out of benefits this month, the National Employment Law Project says.

President Obama chose Pittsburgh to host the G-20 summit because it has rebounded from the exodus of Big Steel a quarter-century ago. The area's jobless rate is about 7%, below the state average of 8.6% and the national average of 9.7% in August.

In low-income areas along the Monongahela River, state, county and private agencies working with the unemployed say the rate is far higher. They are trying to retrain workers on computers or in "green jobs," such as environmental technology.

In Homestead, where U.S. Steel once employed 15,000 people, Kevin Parr is honing his computer skills after a career spent mostly in manufacturing. At the Mon Valley Initiative workforce development office, he learned how to be an environmental field technician, qualifying him to clean up area brownfields.

All that training hasn't landed Parr, 50, a job after more than a year collecting unemployment. "They need to pump more money into places like this," he says.

Contributing: Marisol Bello in McLean, Va.