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Numbers swell at job temp agencies
After getting laid off recently, Rod Lane, top, is interviewed by WillStaff personnel manager Stanetta Fields on Monday.
      Last week's announcement by the Georgia Department of Labor that Georgia's unemployment rate had soared in May to 9.7 percent may have surprised many, but not those working in the employment/staffing industry.
       "We have seen the number of people coming through our doors swell in the last few months," said Ryan Burkhalter, manager of WillStaff Worldwide on Highway 301 South in Statesboro. "What is really different is the type of jobseeker that we see coming through the door. A year ago, most people that were looking for a job are what we would consider to unskilled. Now, that has totally changed. We are getting more and more skilled workers looking for jobs."
       Last month, 463,883 unemployed Georgians were looking for work, an increase of 62 percent from May of 2008. Of that number, 157,544, or 34 percent, are receiving state unemployment insurance benefits, while approximately another 90,000 are receiving federal extended benefits. Georgia's unemployment rate is above the national rate of 9.4 percent for the 19th consecutive month.
       While these statistics paint somewhat of a grim picture for those who are job hunting, the labor pool for employers could not be better.
       "Right now, employers really have a tremendous group of potential employees to choose from," Burkhalter said. "A lot of these folks are very well qualified and come with a lot of work experience, drive, and determination. It's just the number of jobs to choose from right now is really low."
       Peggy Chapman serves as the executive director of the Development Authority of Bulloch County. Chapman said one of the first questions a prospect will ask of the Authority is the status and depth of the local labor pool.
       "They want to know if they come to Statesboro/Bulloch County to build an industrial plant that they will have a good labor source from which to staff that plant," she said. "When we had an influx of industry a few years ago, the unemployment rate hovered in the four percent range. Now it is my understanding that it has leapt above nine percent. I know that we have a tremendous workforce to pull from right now - people that are ready and willing to go to work. It is a great time for industry to locate here."
       One of those individuals looking for an industrial job is Rod Lane. Laid off from Viracon in April, Lane has doggedly pursued a new job, most recently through WillStaff.
       "I had a job loading and unloading glass when I was at Viracon," Lane said. "People aren't hiring. I am hard working and very dedicated to my job. It gets you down when there just isn't any place to work."
       It isn't only those seeking a light or heavy industrial job that are facing a slow job market. Statesboro resident Whitney Skeeters recently graduated from the University of Georgia with a 3.5 grade point average in journalism. Skeeters said she and her roommates have each faced a difficult job market even though have degrees in different areas.
       "All of my friends did really well in school earning degrees with high grade point averages," Skeeters said. "Some have been able to find jobs, but it has been tough. For some, the job that they were able to get really wasn't what they were looking for, and a lot of times their parents had to help them get the job that they eventually got. I don't think any of us could have imagined when we went to college four years ago that we would face a job market like this one. It is pretty brutal."
       Skeeters is continuing to look for that first elusive job out-of-college. "In addition to my journalism degree, I received the University's New Media Institute degree," she said. "That has given me the most interview opportunities, but it is still very, very tough."
       Karen Lewis, manager partner of Snelling Staffing in Statesboro on Zetterower Avenue, said this is a job market like none she has ever seen.
       "I remember the recession of 1991 and 2001, and this one has really taken me by surprise," she said. "We are seeing tremendous numbers of what I would describe as white collar job seekers coming through the door. I have never seen this many. From senior management to junior accounting personnel and receptionists, there is a tremendous amount of cutting back by companies that has been done."
       Lewis said anything that an applicant can do to set themselves apart will help.
       "Any retooling or retraining will help set yourself apart from a very large pool of qualified people seeking that same position," she said. "The playing field has changed dramatically, and this is a serious, long term shift. I don't think it will ever go back to the complacent mentality that 'I have a job and I will be here the next 20 years' like it has been in the past. You are always going to have to stay on the ball by increasing your skills and thus the value that you can bring to your job."

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