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MoDOT targets areas with available workers for hiring fair

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Despite record low unemployment, the latest data shows black workers have lagged behind in hiring and wage growth during the economic boom.

That's why the Missouri Department of Transportation is bringing it's job fair Thursday to the urban core.

MoDOT needs to hire at least 40 full-time highway maintenance workers for the busy summer of mowing and pothole repair.

The agency surveyed the metro area from the Missouri River south to Belton and determined that the urban core, 27th Street and Prospect Avenue, is at the center of the largest pool of available workers the state seeks.

The jobs pay nearly $15 an hour and include health coverage, paid holidays and sick leave.

Despite a labor shortage in many areas of our economy, job fair organizers say there was a line of applicants waiting for the doors to open this morning.

"I got my commercial license last year," said Frank Stokes, one of the first in line to apply. "They said they have opportunities for truck drivers, equipment operators, street maintenance. In the wintertime there's a lot of snow. It’s just a good chance to help the city out."

The most recent federal labor department statistics show African-Americans aren't benefiting as much from what many economists describe as the best labor market in nearly 50 years.

Black unemployment is at 6.8%, compared to the overall national rate of less than 4%.

MoDOT applicants must complete a criminal background check and drug screening, but the state will train workers to get commercial driver's licenses.

Bringing a job fair to the east side is unique, an attempt to overcome structural issues, like transportation, that may be preventing African-American workers from seeking better opportunities.

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