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It’s a job seekers’ market in Hall County
Record number of jobs, lowest jobless rate in state make hiring tough
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Ethan Dalton, left, of Stone Mountain, and Mason Murray, of Cornelia, weld the backsides of prison cells on Thursday, May 3, 2018, in Baldwin, at SteelCell of North America Inc. SteelCell partners with Spherion Staffing Services to hire workers. Candidates for open positions are assessed by SteelCell and work 520 hours before becoming full-time employees. Dalton and Murray are both workers with Spherion where they are on track to becoming full-time SteelCell employees. - photo by David Barnes

Stacey Reece may tell a business he’s got the perfect job candidate for them — someone who should be interviewed that day.

Sometimes, a company official will try to push off meeting the person until the next day.

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Stacey Reece on Wednesday, May 2, 2018, in Gainesville, the franchise owner of the local Spherion Staffing Services facility. Local small and medium-sized businesses are having trouble finding qualified workers, despite the Hall County area having one of the lowest employment rates in the state. - photo by David Barnes
By the next day, “that person has accepted a job somewhere else,” said Reece, franchise owner of Spherion Staffing Services in Gainesville. “That happens day in and day out.”

The bottom line is “if our clients are slow to react, the person we’re attempting to present them ends up going to work for someone else,” he said.

That’s a problem occurring nationally, as the country’s jobless rate has dropped to 3.9 percent, an 18-year low.

It may even be worse in Hall County, where the jobs number has topped the 100,000 mark for the first time — up from 80,000 during the Great Recession — and the jobless rate is at 3.3 percent, the lowest among Georgia’s metropolitan areas.

Great numbers, especially if you’re looking for a job.

Not so much if you’re a business looking for qualified workers.

“This is a half-full, half-empty type of issue,” said Tim Evans, vice president of economic development for the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce. “It’s a good thing, but it also presents some challenges.”

Shrinking joblessness “has been affecting us for quite a while,” said Kris W. London, human resources director for SteelCell of North America Inc. in Baldwin.

“The (U.S.) is really lacking in people who know a skill, a trade. A lot of times, that means going to a trade school or something like that, but you don’t necessarily have to do that to start your career. If you have a good work ethic, there’s a lot of places that will teach you to do things.”

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Jesse Estrada, of Alto, performs a quality control check on a prison cell on Thursday, May 3, 2018, in Baldwin, at SteelCell of North America Inc. SteelCell partners with Spherion Staffing Services to hire workers. Candidates for open positions are assessed by SteelCell and work 520 hours before becoming full-time employees. Estrada is currently a worker with Spherion and is on track to becoming a full-time SteelCell employee. - photo by David Barnes
SteelCell, which makes modular steel prison cells, will take that extra step with certain workers.

“The main things that are most important are if someone has a good work ethic and they’re willing to learn,” London said. “If they have that, we can teach them what they need to know.”

Nationally, numbers showed a decrease in new jobs between February and March, followed by a slight increase in April. A federal government report suggests that may be at least partly due to employers trying harder to fill jobs by hiring people they might have overlooked before.

The number of long-term unemployed — people out of work for six months or longer — has fallen sharply in the past two years, to just 1.3 million. That’s down from a peak of 6.8 million not long after the Great Recession ended.

Workers are increasingly capitalizing on employers’ need to hire people by quitting and looking for new jobs. The proportion of unemployed workers who had quit their jobs reached 13 percent in March, the highest since 2001. Quitting without a job lined up is a sign that workers are confident they can find a new one.

“We have met with our clients over the past three months and (told) them, ‘We know you’re busy, we know you have a lot on your plate ... but you have to respond quickly or you’re going to run the risk of losing an individual,” Reece said.

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Garsumo Dorley, 30, a Lawrenceville resident, goes over a job application form with Ashleigh Kovach, a client service supervisor, on Wednesday, May 2, 2018, in Gainesville, at Spherion Staffing Services. Local small and medium-sized businesses are having trouble finding qualified workers. - photo by David Barnes
In 2010, when the country was reeling from the Great Recession, “if you told someone it would be a week before you could interview them, they’d be happy they had an interview within a week. Today, we ask everyone who comes in if they’re interviewing anywhere else.

“And most of them will say, ‘Sure, I’ve got an interview after this one.’”

Another scenario might be they’ll take a job, then four days later, they quit “because somebody a month ago they interviewed with calls them back and says, ‘Now I need you.’”

Compounding the problem for companies is a graying workforce.

“Some (retirements were) probably delayed by the recession, until 401(k)s recovered, but they are now happening more and more often in the workplace,” Evans said. “Businesses are struggling to find the rights skills to replace a very seasoned workforce.”

Hall County got more than a theoretical example of the problem at its annual job fair on March 21 at the Gainesville Civic Center. The event attracted 750 job seekers, down from 900 the previous year.

But the room was wall-to-wall employers.

Some 70-plus companies and organizations had tables spread out across the center’s ballroom, as well as side rooms and a main hallway.

“If we had more space (at the civic center), we’d probably have more companies,” Evans said at the time.

One of the biggest names at the fair was state Labor Commissioner Mark Butler, who counted 350 job openings after talking to just a half-dozen employees.

Good problem?

“It can be until it gets to a crisis mode and then companies can’t expand,” Butler said. “I was kidding the other day that ... maybe we need to start advertising in Alabama and Mississippi and tell them they need to come move here.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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Garsumo Dorley, 30, a Lawrenceville resident, fills out a job application form and an assessment test on Wednesday, May 2, 2018, in Gainesville, at Spherion Staffing Services. Local small and medium-sized businesses are having trouble finding qualified workers, despite the Hall County area having one of the lowest employment rates in the state. - photo by David Barnes
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