Jobless rate dropping in Wayne
By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on November 22, 2010 3:29 PM
Unemployment in Wayne County has dropped below 8 percent for the first time in months, but it's clear to officials that some jobs won't be coming back in the same numbers that existed before the 2008 recession.
Few companies are making extensive hiring efforts, but the good news is that local companies are not laying off large numbers of people, either, Employment Security Commission manager Bill Pate said.
"We're moving forward in a positive direction. However, I think it's going to be a long slow haul to get back to where we were a few years ago," he said.
There are many people in the county who are "long-term unemployed," meaning they have been out of work for months at this point. Long-term unemployed persons tend to be from fields that have shrunk significantly following the onset of the recession, and have not yet recovered.
Professional and technical jobs are still slumping, and construction is likewise low. The winter months are typically slow for construction jobs, Pate said.
However, once Progress Energy begins work on its new plant just outside of Goldsboro, the contracting and subcontracting for that project should offer employment opportunities for local construction businesses, he added.
Butterball and Georgia-Pacific are two companies that have been hiring more employees recently, but it changes from day to day depending on companies' needs. And the competition for jobs is "pretty stiff," Pate said.
One field that has made a comeback is the local automotive industry.
"The cash for clunkers program really did help our local automotive industries, keep them from having to lay off employers," Pate said.
Possibly as a result, there has been a small uptick in hiring for jobs that involve vehicles, a trend that hopefully will continue, he said.
Seasonal hiring is in progress now, though some businesses may have already filled their quota for this year's holiday rush. Job seekers hoping to land a seasonal position must apply now, or risk missing out, Pate recommended.
Some businesses are putting additional emphasis on work readiness certificate programs. The certificate programs help businesses know more about their potential new hires.
There are several employers in Wayne County that either prefer or recognize job applicants that have earned a work readiness certificate, and some of the advertised jobs that have come through Pate's office specifically required such a certificate, he said.
"I think you will see that grow even more as the economy begins to turn even more. It lets them know they're trainable," Pate said.
Transferable skills and the ability to learn on the job in a new occupation will be very important as the job market recovers, and the work readiness programs provide evidence of a job applicant's flexibility, he said.
Fields such as construction may never recover jobs in the numbers they had before the recession, forcing many people - especially the long-term unemployed - to consider total career changes. The Wayne County Employment Security Commission offers support and tips for job hunters, and soon will be able to offer even more support to help unemployed persons find work, even if it means taking a completely new career path.
The commission recently received an emergency grant that will reimburse businesses up to 90 percent of the cost to provide on-the-job training for new employees. The size of the company will determine the amount of the reimbursement, with the largest reimbursements planned for smaller businesses. The grant program will hopefully help reduce the number of people receiving unemployment benefits, Pate said.
"The focus on it is for small business. Small business always makes up most of your jobs," he said.
The outlook for the future is slowly improving, and the manager was hopeful that the unemployment rate will continue to decline.
"I would love to see if we got down to a 7 percent unemployment rate this time next year. Let's just hope that we've seen the worst of it," Pate said.
The Wayne County branch of the Employment Security Commission relocated earlier this year to its new location at 2006 Wayne Memorial Drive, behind the McDonald's fast food restaurant.