Job market should be picking up, experts say

Tuesday, May 28, 2002

LABEL: Back to work

By Scott Moyers ~ Southeast Missourian

Eric McIntyre is having no luck putting his new college diploma to work.

He scours the newspaper's help wanted sections. He keeps his ear to the phone. He shows up at businesses unannounced. He checks the listings at the Missouri Career Center two or three times a week.

"I've done everything I can think of," said the 23-year-old Cape Girardeau resident. "There's absolutely nothing around here unless you want to flip burgers. Why'd I even go to college?"

It's become a common problem. Many people who have struggled to find work during the nation's economic slowdown and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks left many parts of the country with fewer jobs.

But with the recession declared all but dead, experts say there's reason for optimism. States across the country are seeing unemployment rates slowly drop as the economy begins to rebound, meaning more productivity and more jobs.

Missouri's unemployment rate fell to 5 percent in April from 5.4 percent in March, according to the state's Department of Economic Development.

The department estimated that employment was up by nearly 20,000 jobs from March. Manufacturing, after months of layoffs, has held steady at 361,000 jobs for the third straight month, while there has been a marked increase in jobs in construction, retail and the service industry.

"We're starting to see the light of day," said Paul Reichart, a research analyst with the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center in Jefferson City. "We're seeing fewer layoffs and the end of the recession. Things are getting better."

In Cape Girardeau, April's unemployment rate was 4 percent, down from 4.1 percent in March. Last year at this time, the unemployment rate was 3.8 percent.

Had been worse in past

Ron Fornkahl, a workforce development specialist with the Division of Workforce Development, said he's noticed fewer people coming in and looking for work than they'd seen two months ago.

"There's not as much traffic in here as there was," Fornkahl said.

But even at its worst, the unemployment situation wasn't as bad as Fornkahl has seen it.

"It wasn't like it has been in year's past, when we really had high unemployment," he said. "It never really got very bad here, at least historically speaking."

Fornkahl said that there are jobs available.

A quick search of the Missouri Career Center's computer listings showed dozens of jobs, including a $9-an-hour job as an auto mechanic, a $6-an-hour job as an auto detailer, a $10-an-hour job as a truck driver and a $15-an-hour job as a mechanic.

"People have to just keep looking," Fornkahl said. "There's a little bit of everything, from construction to fast food."

Knowing that there are jobs out there provided little comfort to Kenneth Hartle, 32, of Patton, Mo., who has been looking for a local trucking job for a year.

"There are jobs, but not jobs that fit in with what I'm looking to do," Hartle said. "I want to drive a truck in this area. Those kinds of jobs are hard to find."

McIntyre, the recent Southeast Missouri State University graduate, finished schools with a double-major in business and landscaping. He said if there are jobs to be found, he doesn't know where they are.

"It's not like I'm only looking for landscaping jobs, I'm looking for anything," he said. "I'm not being choosy. And it's not just me. I know a hundred more guys just like me who can't find a job."

McIntyre said he'll continue looking.

"I'll just keep trying," he said. "There's got to be something out there."

335-6611, extension 137

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