Unemployed John Jones wandered the aisles at the recent Employer and Career Expo, reading fliers and asking questions and hoping to get a lead on a job.
Jones was one of 414 job seekers who registered and participated in the sixth annual expo March 13 at the Douglas County Fairgrounds. There were 53 businesses and service agencies or groups who provided information and support.
Jones, a Roseburg resident, said he had been unemployed for too long — six months — and that he’d never before had this much trouble getting work. He said he had applied at more than 100 businesses in the Roseburg, Eugene and Grants Pass areas, had had a couple of interviews, but no job offers.
“It’s a little frustrating,” said the 29-year-old, who has a wife and two young sons to support. “I hope to pull through. Things happen.”
Douglas County’s unemployment rate remained at 11.4 percent in January, the same as it was in December and slightly lower than the 12.2 percent recorded in January of last year. The county’s jobless rate is higher than Oregon’s statewide rate of 8.4 percent and higher than the national rate of 7.9 percent.
There was a registered work force of 44,491 people in Douglas County in January, with 38,858 of them employed. That left 5,633 unemployed.
Sisters Brittanay and Donielle Locks, both of Roseburg, were also hunting for jobs at the expo. They are both students at Umpqua Community College and were searching for flexible part-time work. Brittanay Locks had worked at Sears for five years, but has been unemployed since that store closed about a year ago. The 23-year-old said she had completed and submitted more than 30 applications, had had a couple of interviews, but had “a lot of no-responses.”
Brittanay Locks said she even moved to Portland for four months, hoping she would find more opportunities. She said they are there, but that there were also many more people, making it “a really competitive job market.” She added that rent for a two-bedroom house was $1,200 a month, so it was hard to afford to live there.
Michael Boyd of Roseburg said attending the expo was another way to add to his job search. He had been a concrete mason for eight years before being laid off due to the slowdown in construction and then had washed dishes for several months before being laid off that job.
“I can’t stand to be out of work,” said Boyd, who will turn 40 next month. “I haven’t given up looking. I remain hopeful, but it can get discouraging when you keep turning in applications and get no response back. You just have to keep turning them in.”
Boyd said he’s been a regular visitor at the WorkSource Douglas Employment Department office in Roseburg, applying for jobs online.
Job hopeful Shane Benedict, 25, of Roseburg said he was frustrated at being turned down numerous times during two years of unemployment. He admitted his personal and work history have blemishes, but he said he’s matured and is ready to work to support his 4-year-old daughter and girlfriend. At the expo, he said he had talked to the Oregon Department of Transportation about its apprenticeship program and to Umpqua Training & Employment about its On The Job Training program.
Debbie Fitchett, the manager of the employment department in Roseburg, said she hoped the expo provided some leads for the job seekers.
“It’s an excellent opportunity for people to find out about local employers, to learn about veteran services and about community resources, education and career planning,” she said, adding that the local chapter of the Society of Human Resource Management reviewed resumes at the expo and provided advice about them.
Umpqua Training & Employment President Susan Buell said her agency assisted about 1,000 people in 2012, with 360 of them receiving more extensive assistance. She also said there’s more federal funding for the On The Job Training Program, in which employers split the wage of a new employee during the first few months of work.
Buell and representatives from a couple of staffing businesses in Roseburg said they had seen an increase in employers calling with job openings as well as people looking for work.
Willis Cook of Express Employment Professionals of Roseburg said he interviewed a few people during the expo and placed one in a job.
“It’s just a matter of lining the person up with the right job,” Cook said. “It just depends on the individual.”
Some of the job seekers said their opinion of staffing agencies is that they mainly deal with part-time jobs.
Cook said that’s a misconception as “90 percent of the jobs we have are long term.” He added that temporary jobs can become permanent during a three- to six-month time period if the employee and employer turn out to be a good match.
Rheanna Mosier at SOS Employment Group in Roseburg said that the business placed about 1,400 people in full- and part-time work in 2012 and that the job market was looking even better early this year.
“There are jobs available. A lot are temp to perm if they work out,” she said.
Christie Meacham of ODOT said that the state department is recruiting people for apprenticeships because many of its construction workers are baby boomers who will retire over the next several years.
The Cow Creek Umpqua Tribe conducted numerous interviews at the expo to fill job openings at its casino and hotel in Canyonville.
Cook advised job seekers to remain persistent and patient, adding that people should be flexible about compensation, because the economy in recent years has limited wage increases.
“Keep looking, keep talking to everybody you can, keep checking the newspaper for job listings, the employment department, UT&E, staffing companies, online resources,” he said. “There are jobs.”
• News-Review business reporter Craig Reed can be reached by calling 541-957-4210 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
LeftAlign.0There are jobs available. A lot are temp to perm if they work out.
Rheanna Mosier, SOS Employment Group