James Coats has been out of work for nearly three months.
The Gainesville resident has spent the last 18 years of his life paying the bills as a painter, supporting a wife and raising three kids on the salary he made.
“Now, I can’t even make a living,” Coats said.
With his income drying up like the finishing touches on a freshly painted home, Coats turned to the Georgia Department of Labor’s career center in Gainesville this week to find more steady work.
But he’s not the only one looking for a new job.
The unemployment rate in metro Gainesville rose to 5.9 percent in January from 5.7 percent in December, according to new figures released Thursday by the Georgia Department of Labor. The rate was 7.4 percent in January 2013.
The increase in the local unemployment rate was due to about 1,000 job losses in mostly seasonal service industries, retail and local government.
And while unemployment statewide fell to 7.3 percent in January from 7.4 percent in December, the jobless rate across Northeast Georgia increased to 6.6 percent in January, up from 6.4 percent in December.
Those numbers reflect a disconcerting trend in the local workforce. Just as things appear to be getting better, the job market takes a step back.
And that’s when the career center steps in.
Manager Mark Winters said those looking for work can search online job postings at the center, get help with their resumes, file unemployment insurance claims and receive other assistance. The center also promotes local job fairs, such as the ones to be held by Lake Lanier Islands Resort on Tuesday and March 21 and 22, as well as the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce job fair taking place April 2 at the Gainesville Civic Center.
Coats was busy Thursday afternoon on one of the center’s many computers, looking for any job that fit his varied skill set and experience, which includes painting, carpentry and factory work.
“We’re definitely seeing an uptick in job postings,” Winters said.
Despite Coats’ difficulty in finding work recently, he kept a smile on his face, telling jokes and reminiscing about all the places he’s been — from Illinois to California to Georgia.
“You got to keep one,” he said about having a good attitude. “Something will come along sooner or later.”
Meanwhile, new unemployment insurance claims in metro Gainesville decreased by 750 from December to January, falling to a total of 837, with the largest declines coming in manufacturing, construction, and administrative and support services.
But despite this positive development, the career center was still handling new claims this week.
Barbara English, a resident of Gwinnett County, was laid off earlier this month from her job as a medical biller. On Thursday, she visited the career center to file her first claim for jobless benefits.
English said she worried about how the local economy was faring, her concerns made all the more pressing by the fact she has two college-age kids.
“I don’t think it’s going to be real quick,” she said about finding new work.