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Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013 12:00 am

Employers bullish on economy

Springfield shows lowest unemployment in state


Employers at a Springfield job fair last week tried to fill hundreds of jobs, showing cautious optimism that the economy will continue its slow recovery.

More than 30 businesses – some of them recruiting workers for other companies – attended the Job and Career Fair held Sept. 25 at the Crowne Plaza hotel by the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce, offering jobs ranging from entry-level work to management positions. The same day, the Illinois Department of Employment Security released new data showing Springfield had the lowest unemployment rate of any metropolitan area in the state during August.

Dan Kovats, a commercial resource manager with CMW and Associates Corporation, said his company was looking to fill 15 positions nationwide. CMW is an executive-level recruiting firm based in Springfield, and Kovats said the number of positions to be filled changes weekly.

“The economy is slowly starting to turn around and businesses are starting to get a little bit more trust,” Kovats said. “Some are hedging their bets, but some employers that we work with are more confident. It really depends on the industry. Manufacturing is going through a lot of changes right now, but a lot of white-collar positions are holding strong.”

Kovats said the number of people looking for work is a plus for employers.

“The thing we’re seeing more is they’re not hiring just to hire,” he said. “They’re being a lot more selective, and because there’s a lot more people available for work, they can be more selective on who they’re bringing in.”

Of the 12 metropolitan areas in Illinois, Springfield had the lowest jobless rate in August, according to figures released Sept. 25 by the Illinois Department of Employment Security. IDES said the Springfield MSA (metropolitan statistical area) added 1,800 more jobs in August, a boost of 1.6 percent. Only four of the twelve measured areas in the state showed job increases for August.

IDES Director Jay Rowell said the debt ceiling debate in Washington, D.C., could drive job numbers back down.

 “A federal government shutdown could derail the progress that we have made while undermining consumer confidence and threatening job growth,” Rowell said.

Matt Peterson is a business representative with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), which represents about 850 electricians and workers in related jobs employed by the City of Springfield, Sangamon County, the State of Illinois and several private companies. IBEW was present at the job fair last week, looking to fill 10 to 15 apprenticeships because some members are planning to retire, and the demand for skilled labor is going to increase locally soon.

“In the coming two to three years, we’re going to be very, very busy, and we’ve already got several projects going on now,” he said, mentioning the expansion projects at St. John’s Hospital and Memorial Medical Center. “I think everybody’s going to be pretty happy for the next couple of years.”

Brian Krick is an on-site manager for Resource Employment Solutions, a recruiting firm based in Orlando, Fla. Krick is stationed in Jacksonville, Ill., at a factory operated by Reynolds Consumer Products, which primarily makes plastic products like Hefty trash bags. Krick says the plant has eight entry-level openings for packers and forklift operators, and those jobs may lead to higher-paying work operating the bag-making machines.

Krick says there’s no shortage of people looking for jobs, but finding good workers is always a struggle.

“I’m always looking for people,” he said. “People who start one day and quit the next are common.”

Jim Tomasko, training director for IBEW, says the same.

“It’s not just being able to do the work; it’s having the responsibility to stick with it,” he said. “If you have young men and women who show up and are responsible, they’re very highly employable, because there are a lot of people who don’t do that. I’m sorry, but you’re not going to last long with us if you’re not reliable.”

Contact Patrick Yeagle at pyeagle@illinoistimes.com.

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