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Job hunt may get harder before it improves
As unemployment rises, more are turning to local career center
Georgia Department of Labor resource tech Debbie Thomas helps client Nicholas Bennett on Wednesday at the agency’s Gainesville office. - photo by Tom Reed

It’s been four months since Todd Woll had what he would call a decent job.

Woll, who was self-employed painting and remodeling homes in the area, is unemployed with little prospects for the first time since 1983. For the past few months, he has survived helping friends with odd jobs.

But on Wednesday, the 45-year-old Gainesville resident took his first trip to the Department of Labor’s career center in Gainesville with his girlfriend Lisa Rose.

Rose, a nursing student, is drawing unemployment. The couple recently sought help from Ninth District Opportunity to pay their power bill — help they say they’ve never had to get before.

“All he knows is construction; it’s really tough for him,” Rose said. “And it’s always made us a good living, and all of a sudden it’s gone, so it’s been really tough.”

And it could get tougher before it gets better. Rajeev Dhawan, an economic forecaster at Georgia State University’s J. Mack Robinson College of Business said that the state’s unemployment will increase to 10.3 percent by the end of 2010 before it declines to 9.7 percent by the end of 2012.

At a conference Wednesday, Dhawan, the director of the school’s economic forecasting center, said about 35,600 more jobs will be lost in Georgia this year, according to a news release. About half of those lost jobs will be well-paying positions, the release said.

The best news was that jobs may grow a little next year, but even that news couldn’t soothe Woll, who has next month’s bills to think about.

“I don’t know what they expect people to do until 2011,” he said.

Woll is one of about 14,000 people who seek help from the Department of Labor’s Gainesville Career Center each month, according to Mark Winters, the center’s manager. And in January, more than 600 of those visitors were filing initial unemployment claims, Winters said.

A lot of times, especially on Mondays and Tuesdays, the Gainesville center has lines out the door, Winter said.

The center currently serves five counties — Hall, White, Lumpkin, Dawson and Forsyth — and could be combined with another center in the region depending on legislators’ final budget decisions.

Since 2008, the number of available jobs, especially those in the manufacturing and construction industries, has dwindled, though there are still companies hiring. And while it can’t promise to find everyone a job in these economic times, the department trains and helps area residents on their resumes, interviewing and networking skills in the mean time, Winters said.

The number of people who sought the department’s help in January was “significantly higher” than in previous Januarys, said Beverly Johnson, the assistant commissioner for field services at the Department of Labor.

For folks like Woll, who feel they only know how to do one thing, Johnson said the department looks at transferable skills that may get them hired in another industry.

If that doesn’t work, then the department recommends additional training, Johnson said.

And after four months without a job, and only three available jobs in construction Wednesday, Woll said he was considering looking for jobs in the trucking industry — he had a cousin who might help pay for the training.

“If I can get in 40, 50 hours a week, that’s a steady paycheck, basically,” said Woll. “It’s too hard out there fighting, trying to get work. You might have had two or three people been out of a job, now you’ve got 100.”

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