A line of a few hundred job seekers stretched around the Gainesville Civic Center as they waited for the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce’s job fair to open Wednesday morning.
Traditionally, the annual event draws around 1,000 job seekers.
The free event, sponsored by Modern Woodmen of America, The Georgia Department of Labor’s Gainesville Career Center, the Gainesville Area Employer Committee and the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, provided hundreds of job seekers with the opportunity to meet hiring managers face to face.
The event was held in a somewhat smaller venue this year for the first time at the civic center. In previous years, it was held at the former Georgia Mountains Center, which is now the Brenau Downtown Center.
Kit Dunlap, president and CEO of the chamber, said the location worked out well.
The entire second floor of the center was filled with booths from more than 50 employers from the area.
The event also gave employers the chance to fill openings faster by meeting many job candidates during a short period of time.
Georgia Department of Labor Commissioner Mark Butler was on hand to offer his encouragement to job seekers and thank the businesses for hiring.
“It gives you a good temperature of what’s going on in the economy in the different parts of the state,” Butler said. “Everybody has different issues and different needs.”
He said that the sizable line that formed outside the job fair wasn’t a bad sign; it shows that people want to find a job.
“It’s encouraging on both sides,” Butler said. “You’ve got a lot of people out there that are wanting to get into the job market. There are a lot of employers in here that want to hire.”
He said that nationally, half a million people have dropped out of the job search, but that isn’t the case in Georgia.
According to the GDOL website, the unemployment rate in Georgia is 8.6 percent. The national average is 7.7 percent.
“In the last 22 months of the last 24 months, we’ve actually seen our workforce number increase,” Butler said. “Which means we’ve got more people getting into the job search. We’re kind of bucking the trend in that area, which is a positive sign. That means people are getting more encouraged about there being job opportunities out there.”
Matavien Smith, a Lawrenceville resident, attended the job fair hoping to find a clerical or administrative position.
Smith said she felt a bit overwhelmed as she entered because of the number of people looking for work. She’s been looking for a job since June of 2012.
“It’s hard because looking for a job is a job,” Smith said.
But Smith said she’s a not the kind of person to give up the search even though there are challenges. She said she takes advantage of any opportunity to meet employers in person.
She said she often feels frustrated because so many jobs require applicants to submit their information online.
“You don’t even get to talk to anybody anymore because everything is automated,” Smith said. “Then you call and you say ‘I’ve applied with the company. How do I go about getting an interview?’ Then they’ll say ‘Well, if the recruiter feels you meet the qualifications they’ll call you.’”
Smith said she makes it a point to call each and every company she applies to because she knows how important it is to stand out. She also sends thank-you notes after her interviews.
She said she learned skills for job searching though a workshop at the Department of Labor several years ago. She said she knows those skills will serve her well as she continues to look for work.
Smith said she was glad to see that a number of staffing agencies were represented at the event because she knows they can help her find the kind of work she’s looking for, even if it’s only a temporary position.
Tim Christy, owner of Express Employment Professionals in Lawrenceville and Gainesville, said a high number of people stopped by his booth in the first hour.
“It’s a good turnout, but there are a lot of very, very high-quality people here,” Christy said. “Which can be concerning in one area as to why they’re at the higher levels and looking, but we have found some really high-quality people and we’re excited to try and put them to work. As long as we can find people and put them with good companies, we’ve done our job.”