With the national unemployment rate for January hitting 7.6 percent, not many businesses are doing well.
One that has seen an uptick, though, is the business of finding employment for the unemployed.
Jessica Nichols, workforce manager for the Madison County WIN Job Center in Canton, said traffic there was up 13 percent in January compared with January 2008.
“That’s actually a pretty high number,” she said. “Unfortunately, it’s to file for unemployment. That’s just the nature of the economy right now.”
The job market has changed, and so have the people either filing for unemployment benefits or using employment agencies to help them find work.
More and more, Nichols said, the people walking through the doors of the WIN Job Center are folks who have just lost a professional-level job, jobs that usually have good salaries and benefits.
“We’re not seeing just blue-collar. There are a lot of professional people — stock brokers, engineers — who are out of work and haven’t experienced that ever before,” she said.
The two industries hit perhaps the hardest by the recession are the manufacturing and construction sectors, each of which has lost upward of a million jobs in the last year, according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor.
White-collar jobs have disappeared, too.
“We’re seeing more higher-level, salaried people then usual,” said Carolyn Harrison, president of Capitol Staffing in Jackson.
In what seems like an inverted dynamic, the people who held upper-echelon jobs are the ones who, once laid off, have to wait longer for job placement. The previous job prestige has a direct relationship with the amount of time a candidate will wait to find another one.
“It just takes longer,” she said.
“I would certainly agree with that,” Harrison said. “Because you have people who have been in jobs for a number of years who come in here and say, ‘I’ve never had to look for a job actively.’
“I think during this time that a lot of businesses are, if some one leaves, they’re letting everybody else pick up the slack instead of hiring another person. We have great candidates who are looking. There are a lot of very stable people who we have on file. They’re wonderful candidates, but the challenge is, there is a shortage of jobs.”
There are places that are hiring. Nichols said she frequently places job candidates who are seeking employment within the healthcare industry. In somewhat of a surprise, sales positions have gone fast, too, she said. And, with the end of the decade approaching, the government will begin a large counting operation. “The Census Bureau has been here already,” Nichols said.
Even if sectors are hiring, the possibility of a job candidate landing there are not favorable. With the pool of potential employees growing larger by the week, employers can be extraordinarily specific when it comes to the skill set of the person they hire. Competition among the few candidates who meet employer-set qualifications is increasing, Nichols said.
“It’s kind of a buyer’s market,” she said. “There is a lot of talent the employer can tap into. As far as the matches are concerned, it’s kind of tough out there right now.”
Her staffing agency has always dealt with either a shortage of jobs or candidates. There is always more of one than the other, never an equal amount of each, Harrison said.
“That hasn’t changed; it’s just a little more dramatic right now as far as not having as many as jobs as we’re used to having,” she said.
For now, the goal is to prepare for the future, said Nichols.
“We’re just trying to help people weather the storm and help them prepare as much as possible for when the job market is a little more viable than it is right now.”
Contact MBJ staff writer Clay Chandler at firstname.lastname@example.org .