Give credit to jobless Los Angeles County residents for their creativity and gumption. With the county’s official unemployment rate in July at 8.7 percent, the Los Angeles Times reports that many Angelenos have reluctantly turned to street vending to make ends meet. Most have been laid off from their salaried jobs and can’t find new employment. The total number of street vendors is about 10,000 and includes men and women, some working seven days a week, while others supplement their dwindling full- or part-time incomes.
Street vending is illegal in Los Angeles. Nevertheless, the vendor population, driven by low wages and lost jobs, is on the rise. The vendors stay on the move to avoid police or store owners who complain about competition from unlicensed businesses. Since vendors offer merchandise at discount prices, bargain shoppers often seek them out. According to the Economic Round Table, street vendors, who include professionals, single mothers and war veterans, generate approximately $100 million in annual sales.
Jackie Lloyd, an African-American 39-year-old laid-off elementary school cafeteria worker, told the Times that her sales of soap and body oils generate between $20 and $150 daily. Lloyd spent four months looking for work after the school district cut her loose but, despite culinary training, couldn’t find a job at Wal-Mart, Target or Subway.
Lloyd and others interviewed in the Times story are examples of how tough the U.S. job market is and how cruel it would be to Americans if President Obama makes good on his threat to give work permits to at least five million illegal aliens. The vendors might also have a better chance at a secure job if California employers didn’t hire so many illegal immigrants. A recent University of Southern California study pegged illegal immigrants as comprising 10 percent of the state’s workforce. According to my eyeball analysis, 10 percent is low.