Area layoffs continue

By Billy Corriher

With the metro Atlanta area still seeing massive layoffs, many workers are signing up for training programs to further their skills or switch to careers that are still in demand.

The Georgia Department of Labor reports that 5,743 more people in metro-Atlanta signed up for unemployment insurance benefits in December 2003 than in November. Department of Labor spokesman Sam Hall said that number is a leading economic indicator, because it measures the number of newly laid-off workers.

Clayton County's unemployment numbers remain higher than most surrounding counties, with the Department of Labor reporting 7,472 people looking for a job out of a work force of 144,609. That is 5.2 percent.

"We're still seeing some major layoffs," Hall said. "And the problem is a lack of job creation."

Dorothy Herzberg, who works at Clayton College & State University's Career Resource Center, said that with so many unemployed, she's seen a large increase in people looking for job training in every field.

"We're being inundated with people wanting to go back to school," she said. "It helps them quite a bit (with their job search), especially if they've been in a field that doesn't exist anymore," she said, referring to industries like manufacturing.

Riverdale resident Stacy Bowens said she's been looking for a job since August, and recently decided to enter a training program that could help her chances.

Bowens, who was laid off from her job at a Cingular cell phone repair facility, said she worked part time at her church for a couple of months, but hasn't been able to find a full-time job.

"It's hard to find people who are hiring," she said.

Now, Bowens is training for 10 weeks with Johnco Management Systems in College Park to become a medical secretary. She said that although she's only been in the program for two weeks, she already feels like her training has paid off.

"I feel like I can go and get a job now," she said.

Nelson Brown, director of information management for Johnco, said the medical field is one area where workers are still needed.

"The economy is real bad, but we still manage to infiltrate the job market," he said.

Brown said the training company, despite the economy, is maintaining a 70 to 80 percent placement rate.

Another industry that is still seeking workers is trucking, Herzberg said, and the Career Resource Center often sends laid-off workers to America's Driving Force in Forest Park for training.

David Johnson, recruitment manager for America's Driving Force, said that, with the trucking industry defying the declining job market, enrollment at the driving school has increased.

"Our numbers are definitely up from two years ago," he said.

Johnson said that even though there are many people looking for a job, there are still opportunities for newly trained truck drivers.

And Bowens said that, although she realizes many people are searching for a job, she's confident her training will give her an edge.

"When I'm done with my training, I think I'll be able to find a job," she said. "I'm optimistic."