Jobs hard to find|Area residents are struggling to secure jobs

Published 3:07 am Friday, November 6, 2009

Staff Writer

Don’t tell Tashua Wilson that the recession is officially over — she still needs a job.
Wilson, 26, is a mother of two girls, 12 and 1.
The Washington resident had been working through a temporary-employment agency, but she was laid off.
“I feel like things are going to get better, but it’s going to take time,” she said.
Wilson isn’t waiting for the economy to improve.
On Thursday, she sought work through JobLink in Washington.
A public agency, JobLink helps clients with job searches and training.
Wilson, a GED student, has applied at numerous businesses, including Food Lion, Wal-Mart and some fast-foot restaurants, according to Linda Booth, case manager.
So far, nothing.
“It’s hard,” said Booth.
Many of the jobs listed with the N.C. Employment Security Commission require high-school diplomas, Booth related.
And, “There’s nothing for factories,” she added.
“Everything’s seemed to have slowed down, as far as production,” said Jennie Bowen, JobLink manager.
“There seem to be a few more jobs listed,” but job placement isn’t on the rise, Bowen added.
As a former assistant manager of the ESC office in Martin County, Bowen has noticed that federal stimulus money is creating a number of jobs through the government.
But a lot of local ESC clients don’t qualify for those jobs, she said.
Faced with limited prospects on a local level, “A lot of people are having to expand what they consider a reasonable commute,” Bowen said.
At the ESC office Washington, Pat Oswalt, director, said he hasn’t seen a downturn like this one in the nearly 30 years he’s worked there.
“I don’t know how to answer it,” Oswalt said. “I just don’t. We seem to be pretty stagnant. We’re not getting worse, we’re not getting better.”
Oswalt, manager of the Washington ESC office since 1987, said manufacturing always pulled the local economy out of the doldrums in the past.
But now, he said, “I don’t see any catalyst. I don’t know what it’s going to be this time.”
The national picture looks better.
On Thursday, The Associated Press reported that October retail sales beat expectations, giving stores a lift ahead of the holiday shopping season.
And stocks rose amid that news and reports that the number of people seeking unemployment benefits had declined, AP reported.
Yet, in Beaufort County, unemployment remained above the state and national averages.
The jobless rate was 11.2 percent in September, the Daily News reported.
Updated county unemployment figures aren’t due out until the third Friday of the month, according to Oswalt.
Those figures will only reflect people who are seeking help with unemployment benefits or job placement through the ESC, he said.
Not included in those numbers are many out-of-work people, from those who were self-employed to those whose unemployment benefits simply run out, Oswalt confirmed.
Despite jarring jobless totals, the local business climate seems to be holding its own or even improving, related Catherine Glover, executive director of the Washington-Beaufort County Chamber of Commerce.
Chamber membership has held steady, and there are “small signs” that things are getting better as some people pursue their lifelong dreams of starting a business, Glover said.
Glover did add that she was saddened upon hearing that at least two area restaurants closed recently.
“Any time that happens, it just forms a doubt in everybody’s minds,” she said.
On the bright side, there have been no major layoffs lately, she noted.
On Washington’s Main Street, cautious optimism radiated from Nancy Campbell, co-owner of Crabby’s Stained Glass &Collectibles.
The shop, which opened around the first of August, is hanging in there, Campbell indicated.
“We’ve been real pleased with the glass aspect, teaching classes,” she said. “As far as the retail end, it’s just moderate.”
Shop visitors are interested in learning about craft work, but they are less interested in spending money on gifts, Campbell said.
As for the upcoming Christmas shopping season, “We need it bad,” she said.
The owners hope that glass sales and craft classes will make up for any possible losses in Christmas sales.
“Right at the moment, it’s a slow start to the Christmas season, but I anticipate it picking up,” Campbell said.
Said Glover: “We’re hoping 2010 is a lot better.”