Local workforce still struggling to find jobs

By Billy Corriher

Marilyn Heard of Riverdale said she was looking for a job for three or four months before she finally found one waiting tables at City Caf? in Jonesboro.

"It seemed like I was looking forever," she said. "Nobody was hiring."

Heard said she was laid off from her last job as a waitress, and she said many over-qualified people are seeking positions like hers, making it even harder for her to land a job.

"I was hoping the economy would get better by now? maybe it will by the summer," she said.

Preliminary estimates from the state Department of Labor show an increase in employment in Clayton and Henry counties for the month of November. Clayton County saw almost 1,500 people find a job from October to November, and Henry County saw a small increase as well.

But experts said much of the increase is due to seasonal jobs, not permanent job growth, and unemployment will likely increase again in January.

"Everyone's looking for (sustained job growth), but I don't think we can say we have it from one month of data," said Ralph Toller, Georgia Department of Labor spokesman.

Toller said that, although the economy may be recovering, the job market has not yet caught up.

"Layoffs and closings are still widespread throughout the metro-Atlanta area," he said.

Tony Arriaga, manager of City Caf?, said he can get up to 20 people a day asking for a job at his restaurant.

"I just tell them I don't have any more applications," he said. "The economy is very bad."

Karen Craig, operations manager at Royal Staffing in McDonough, said her employment agency is still seeing a steady stream of job seekers.

"We have a tremendous number of people still looking for jobs," she said.

Craig said she thinks employers are becoming a little more willing to hire now, but the job market still has a long way to go.

"We can see a little upturn coming," she said.

Michael Wald, a regional economist for the Bureau of Labor Statistics, said the employment situation in Henry and Clayton counties is better than it was a year ago, meaning there is hope for a job market recovery.

He also said that as more employers start hiring, more people that had given up on finding for a job start looking again, and more job seekers will hinder any decline in unemployment rates.

Wald said the reason Henry County has a relatively low unemployment rate is because many residents commute to Atlanta.

"Henry is a typical, outlying, suburban community," he said. "It is a bedroom community, essentially."

Wald said Clayton County, on the other hand, relies on the airline industry for much of its jobs because of its proximity to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

"As long as the airlines are struggling, Clayton County is going to be struggling," he said.