About 30,000 people work in the District's healthcare industry, according to the D.C. Hospital Association. Now the mayor and the Department of Employment Services are launching what they call an "aggressive" hiring initiative in partnership with local hospitals to hire even more people.
In the partnership, the hospitals have not committed to hiring a certain number of Washingtonians, but they say it will speed up the hiring process with plenty of positions to fill.
"But just don't give up. Don't give up, right? Repeat after me, I'm not going to give up," says Marion Barry, (D) D.C. Council.
Ward 8 Councilmember Barry gave a rousing pep talk Monday morning to unemployed Washingtonians seeking jobs in D.C.'s hospital industry.
"I appreciate that and I'm grateful that they are really understanding that there are people out in the community who have no other recourse," says Seteria Toney, who is unemployed.
Ever since Paris McKnight lost his job at the Pentagon coordinating military medicine, he's submitted hundreds of applications.
"It's been tough," he says. "It's been really tough. It's been two years, a full two years and a month and I haven't received one interview."
McKnight and dozens of other job candidates with healthcare experience were invited to the pre-screening event, the result of the new partnership, which, with 16 member hospitals, has more than 100 open positions.
"Certainly the areas of nursing and IT, in particular," says Chip Davis, the president of Sibley Memorial Hospital.
"But also in the business office side, there's a lot of opportunity for billing collectors, food services, environmental services," says Susan P. Bailey, CEO of Specialty Hospitals of Washington-Capitol Hill.
Part of Mayor Gray's "One City, One Hire" program, he believes it's helped drop D.C.'s jobless rate from more than 11 percent to 8.5 percent.
"Virtually 6,000 people have gotten jobs through 'One City, One Hire.' That's made a huge debt in our unemployment," Gray says.
But for the long-term unemployed, the improving economy doesn't feel real and it won't until they get hired.
"Especially with my work experience dealing with high level military members and congressional folks like that, I thought it would be easy," says McKnight.
The "One City, One Hire" program now has more than 900 area employers involved, and as a result, more than 5,900 District residents have found employment.
After the pre-screening, identified candidates will be invited to a hiring event where they will interview with D.C. Hospital Association member employers and move to the next phase of recruitment.
Learn more about "One City, One Hire".