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Friday, August 29, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 84.0° F  Mostly Cloudy
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Why can't this woman get hired?
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Roselind Johnson: Still looking.
Roselind Johnson: Still looking.

The other day, Roselind Johnson heard a TV news segment about Dane County's unemployment rate - 3.6% in August, the lowest in the state. You couldn't prove it by her.

"I've been out of work since April," says an exasperated Johnson, a 38-year-old Madison resident who estimates she's applied for more than 30 jobs, rattling off names: MGE, Bell Lab, temp agencies, various restaurants. She submits her application, then waits for good news that never comes.

Several times this summer, Johnson has called Isthmus about her ongoing job search. Often she's been optimistic, having just submitted an application or come away from an interview thinking "This is the one." But disappointment always follows.

Johnson, the mother of four, doesn't understand it. She has a high school diploma and is halfway to getting a two-year liberal arts degree from MATC. She also has job experience, having worked every fall for eight years at Swiss Colony as well as for temp agencies and others. "I did a good job," she attests. If anyone disputes this, speak now or hold your peace.

Liz Green, Dane County's economic and work services manager, notes that "all of us have had the experience of going to job interviews where we don't get the job." But how could a person apply again and again and still not get hired, in one of the nation's tightest job markets?

"Some people do have behavior or issues - barriers, if you will - that make it difficult for them to get hired," says Green, mentioning histories of drug and alcohol abuse or mental illness. Johnson says that's not true in her case. She has a felony conviction from 1994, for which she served no jail time, but that was long ago. Then there's the fact that she's black, which she suspects is a factor.

"I'm still optimistic," she says, fresh from applying for a UW job. Hope springs eternal when you're out of work.

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