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Hundreds attend jobs fair

Photo by Joe Bellacomo

Photo by Joe Bellacomo

ALBANY, Ga. -- With the unemployment rate still in double digits, officials on the state level are not giving up on getting Georgians back in the work force.

The Georgia Department of Labor sponsored a career expo and jobs fair for employers and job-seekers at the Albany Civic Center Thursday afternoon.

During the 1 p.m.-4 p.m. event, Labor Department staff were on hand to conduct workshops and assist job-seekers with resume writing as well as online job applications.

In less than an hour, more than 800 people walked through the Civic Center's doors. By the end of the event, roughly 1,500 people had shown up.

"So far, we have had positive feedback," said Melissa Etheridge, an Aflac district sales coordinator who participated in the event. "I'd say on a scale of 1 to 10, it's a 9. There is a good variety of people here; there are a lot of people actively seeking work.

"(Jobs fairs) provide opportunities. If they set up an event, it makes it easier."

The expo featured more than 75 employers, educational institutions and resource agencies that provide assistance to job-seekers. Some employers were hiring, while others where there to discuss future opportunities for employment.

"There are scores of employers looking to hire," said state Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond. "People need to have a positive attitude. When you see a 10 percent (unemployment rate) that's one thing, but when you see the humanity of it, that puts a different perspective on it."

Officials reported Thursday that Georgia's unemployment rate is at 10 percent, with more than half of jobless workers being unemployed for 27 weeks or longer.

"That's never happened before," the commissioner said of the long-term unemployment numbers. "That's especially troubling to me."

The most recent figures available from the Labor Department indicate that metro Albany has a preliminary unadjusted unemployment rate of 10.9 percent.

David Jones, a technical operations manager for Mediacom in Albany, said the company's booth had attracted about 200 people in the first hour.

"We are trying to hire six people," Jones said. "We had a real good success at the Albany Tech job fair, so we decided to participate. We are just looking for the best candidate, and when you have a bigger pool, that makes it easier.

"We're excited about it. This allows us to get a lot of resumes in a short period of time."

Tamaro Hayes, a recruiter for Avon, participated in her first career expo Thursday, and she expressed enthusiasm for doing it again.

"Things are going wonderful," she said at the event. "We are getting great feedback from potential employees. (Jobs fairs) give you a wide range of people to network with. I'm enjoying it.

"With the way the economy is, this helps."

Among the other organizations present were the Albany Fire Department, the Albany Police Department, Albany Technical College, AmeriCorps VISTA, AT&T, Central Monitoring, Cumulus Media, the Dougherty County Police Department, the Dougherty County Sheriff's Office, Equity Group, Experience Works, Georgia Department of Corrections/Albany P.A.R.C., www.gosmallbiz.com, Liberty National Insurance, Papa John's Pizza, Rescare Homecare, SafeAire Heating and Cooling, Senior Life Insurance Co., SOWEGA Financial Services, Turner Job Corps Center, Tyson Foods and Waffle House.

While other jobs fairs have been held in Albany before, this is the first one the Labor Department has hosted of this scale in the area that didn't include anything other than the jobs fair.

"It helps from a psychological perspective," Thurmond said of the importance of such events. "We have to really try to lift spirits. It reduces the cost of a job search, so it's very important for people who have limited resources.

"It's our historical mission. It's why we (the Labor Department) exist. It's our job to facilitate and bring employers and job-seekers together. We are just not going to give up on the recession; we just have to fight until we get Georgia back to work."

There are jobs fairs set to take place in Augusta and Savannah next week on Tuesday and Thursday, respectively.