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More than 3,000 job seekers look for help at career expo
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Hundreds of people fill the Georgia Mountains Center for a job and resource fair Thursday in Gainesville.The job fair, which has more than 90 exhibitors, is one of the department's largest events in Hall County in the last 10 years. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

On Thursday, Pharon Brown was a man on a mission.

Filled with optimism and a stack of résumés tucked neatly inside a brown, leather binder, he made his way over to the Georgia Mountains Center for the Career and Resource Expo.

“I’d like to find a job with the (Hall County) Sheriffs Department or the Gainesville Police Department,” said Brown, a 28-year-old transplant from Savannah.

“I went to school in Kennesaw, but after graduation, the job market sort of fell off, so I left and went to Savannah. I (recently) relocated to Gainesville because my daughter is here.”

Since moving, Brown has been substitute teaching. But after the expo, he hopes to find something more permanent — and he’s not alone.

More than 3,000 hopeful candidates attended the event. While many were local, there were some attendees from areas such as Paulding, Clayton, Dekalb and Cherokee counties.

“Obviously, it is good to see so many employers who (came out Thursday) and were accepting applications,” said Michael Thurmond, Georgia commissioner of labor, who attended the event.

“But the fact that so many Georgians are unemployed and out looking for work is sobering. The Georgia Department of Labor is committed to doing everything we can to assist those who are looking for work.”

According to the labor department, last month the state’s unemployment rate dropped from 10 percent to 9.9 percent.

Despite the slight decline, Georgia’s unemployment rate remained higher than the national average — 9.5 percent — for the 34th consecutive month.

The department attributes the decrease to long-term unemployed workers getting discouraged and giving up on searching for a job. Long-term unemployed workers are those who have been out of work for at least 27 weeks.

Overall, the state lost more than 30,000 jobs in July — around 1,100 of those were in Gainesville Metro Area.

“Georgia’s job market continued to deteriorate for the second consecutive month,” Thurmond said.

“For the second consecutive month, the number of jobs in our state declined, new layoffs increased and long-term unemployment continued to rise.”

On her 7 months of unemployment, Katherine Bailey knows just how discouraging it can be to look for work with no results.

“I’ve been looking and looking, but nothing. When I found out about this job fair, I knew I had to come. I’m hoping that with so many employers here, someone will offer me a job,” said Bailey, a Cherokee County resident, as she pushed her daughter in a stroller.

“I know this is about making a good impression on potential employers. But there wasn’t anyone to watch her and I can’t afford day care without steady work, so I hope they don’t penalize me for that.”

With thousands of attendees and only 91 exhibitors, it may be fair to say that there were more hopeful employees than available positions at the expo.

“We started out with around 150 (blank) applications,” said Officer Kevin Holbrook, with the Gainesville Police Department.

“They were all gone within an hour — we had to go out and make copies. We didn’t expect such a large turnout.”

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