Job fair shows unemployment woes

March 6, 2009 3:21:57 PM PST
New government figures released Friday show the nation's unemployment rate has reached a 25-year high. According to the Labor Department, since the recession began in December of 2007, more than 4.4 million Americans have lost their jobs. That brings the nation's unemployment rate now to just over 8 percent, the highest since late 1983.

On the issue of unemployment, for better or for worse, Illinois tends to be on the higher end due to the high number of manufacturers. The state's statistics for February will be out.

For those looking, they know they are in good company. Any opportunity for employment draws a crowd these days. Friday morning, at the Westside Learning Center, recruiters from the state and private companies were greeted by eager applicants.

"To bring as many employers as possible under one roof to provide maximum opportunity for employment," said State Rep. LaShawn Ford, (D) Chicago.

For some, the job search is wearing them down.

"I've been looking for a job for a few months now, and it's pretty saturated," said Jeff Evanchik, job seeker.

"It's very challenging. I have a 14-year-old I'm trying to take care of and I'm a single parent. It's hard. Real hard," said Felicia Campbell, job seeker.

On the Far North Side, Northeastern Illinois University hosted the Annual Mid-America Educators' Job Fair. Typically, applicants are recent college graduates, but now the applicants are experienced, often with experience in other fields.

"There are a lot more career changers, people who have been in business but because of the many, many jobs that have been lost, they are exploring other opportunities," said Lorn Coleman, Northeastern Illinois University director of career services.

"I am going into teaching...I really love it. Can't wait to get a job," said Jennifer Savone, photographer.

"Hopefully I can transition some of these technology skills and possibly pass that on to some of the youth through the educational system," said Michael Crawley, IT manager.

Job applicants are forced to expand their searches as this recession lingers.

"Unfortunately, it's not going to be the last of the bad news," said Adolfo Laurenti, Mesirow Financial.

Adolfo Laurenti is the senior analyst at Mesirow Financial. He believes the stimulus will eventually help businesses and lead to more jobs. But Laurenti doesn't expect to see that until later this year.

"Patience is very important to have. With these big losses in the job market, nobody is really willing to be too patient at this point," Laurenti said.

In years past, the Mid-America Educators Job Fair was a place for school districts across the country to recruit teachers, but travel budgets have been cut, so there aren't many out of state recruiters.