In a city with the highest unemployment in the state, the news of the cancellation of an annual job fair wasn’t welcome news.
But Mary Gottsch, director of Bridges Workplace Connection and job fair coordinator, said the plan is to reschedule the Lakes Area Career Fair & Training Expo, perhaps in April.
“We just didn’t get companies and usually we do,” Gottsch said.
The job fair was planned for March 23 at Central Lakes College. In previous years, jobseekers have arrived in numbers with resumes in hand and ready for on-the-spot job interviews. But with just more than a week away, just eight organizations or companies were confirmed for the fair. Most were for independent direct sales consultants with a few larger area employers, such as Ascensus, represented.
“We were surprised,” Gottsch said.
Gottsch has been working with the job and career fair since 2004. Before that it was coordinated by the college. The job fair previously included seminars to help jobseekers with the hunt and provided booths on career and training options along with prospective employers.
Last year, the fair had 22 booths. But before the recession took hold, the fair typically had 40 to 60 booths with businesses well represented. In recent years, booths included a strong representation of part-time and seasonal work for the summer.
“I think health care, lodging, tourism have their own job fairs and they are a lot of our vendors,” Gottsch said.
With jobs still scarce, Gottsch said companies willing to hire already have a list of applications to pick from.
For a contrast, in Eagan, a job fair event for roughly the same date was heralded by the state Department of Employment and Economic Development — also one of the event’s sponsors — for attracting more than 50 exhibitors along with two free workshops. The workshops focused on job seekers, including a session on energizing a job search. The event is expected to attract thousands of job seekers.
The U.S. Labor Department reported 192,000 jobs were added to the economy in February. In Minnesota, DEED reported 2,000 jobs were added in January.
Last month, DEED released results from a job vacancy survey and found indications of an improved economy with more job openings in 2010 than an even more difficult 2009. Comparing late 2010 to the fourth quarter in 2009, there were 5.8 unemployed people in the state for each job opening. In 2009, those numbers were 8.2 unemployed people for each job vacancy.
The labor market remains tight with jobseekers still facing challenges to find work, DEED reported in February. At that time there were 6.9 unemployed people for each job opening in greater Minnesota.
Brainerd reported an unemployment rate of 18.1 percent for January.
RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5852.