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Staffing service sees hope as 2009 begins
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      National and state unemployment numbers have been all over the news in the last few days. In December, Bulloch County's unemployment rate rose to 7.4 percent, up from 6.6 percent the previous month.
       As disheartening as that news may be, we still remain far below the Georgia seasonally adjusted December unemployment rate of 8.1 percent, and we clearly are faring better than our neighbors to the north and west.
Candler County reports 8.8 percent unemployment, Emanuel is 10.3 percent, Screven is 11.0, and Jenkins is at 20.9. Bryan and Effingham are 6.1 and 6.0 respectively.
       With unemployment on the rise, and not many job opportunities being advertised, what are people doing to find work? As you might expect, they are hitting the staffing agencies.
       "We saw a huge bump in applicants in the last quarter of 2008," said Karen Lewis, managing partner of Snelling Staffing in Statesboro. "It was a tremendous increase, and really more than we expected."
Lewis said she is very surprised by the "mix" of applicants.
       "We are getting as many applications submitted from white collar professionals as we are from skilled and unskilled labor," she said. "That is very unusual for us."
       Lewis said she is much more hopeful now about the job market than she was just a few short weeks ago.
       "We have actually had a pretty good start to 2009, much better than we expected to have," she said. "We are finding jobs for people, and businesses are hiring. We don't accept applications and wait for a job to come around for someone. We go out and talk with businesses and market our candidates. We have been successful so far this year. I can only hope that it stays that way."
       The "job forecast" issued by Moody's Economy.com this past Monday predicts that the first quarter of 2009 will be the second worse in terms of job loss over the course of this economic downturn with the last quarter of 2008 proving to be the worst. They also predict that job losses will continue throughout 2009 with a robust rebound in 2010.
       "The fourth quarter of last year was very concerning for everyone," Lewis said. "We have been pleasantly surprised the last few weeks. I can't say that we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel necessarily, but we can see the tunnel, or perhaps a way out, and that has made us very hopeful here. We learned last year, along with everyone else, that we cannot take anything for granted."
       Lewis said people are having to get used to making less just to get another job, but they are able to "keep the lights on" and pay their bills.