Joliet area unemployment up; workers try to keep hope alive
By Cindy Wojdyla Cain firstname.lastname@example.org August 8, 2011 9:08PM
Updated: November 26, 2011 12:30AM
The unemployed, especially the long-term unemployed, are scared.
They’re scared their unemployment benefits are going to run out before they can get a job. They’re scared their work skills are deteriorating or they’re going to lose their home. And they’re scared no one will hire them because they’ve been out of work for a while.
That was the mood assessment Monday from Susan Flessner, administrative manager for Will County Workforce Services in Joliet.
“It’s just kind of a scary time as we try to keep people optimistic,” she said. “No hope is not good.”
Flessner works in the trenches with the unemployed pointing them toward the resume and career services help available from her federally funded program.
Even in this bleak economy, which is getting bleaker by the minute with the downgrade of the U.S. bond rating and a declining stock market, unemployed people have to be ready to pounce on job opportunities, Flessner said.
“They need to be ready to go when they do hear of something.”
One of those finding himself among the unemployed was Mack Wagner, of Joliet, who was following up on paperwork Monday at the Illinois Department of Employment Security.
Without a job for two weeks, Wagner was hopeful.
“I think it’s going to pick up because they (IDES) are getting me more opportunities on what I’m qualified for,” he said. “The places that are doing the hiring should teach people how to do the job correctly so they can have experience.”
‘A lot of people out of work’
Unemployment numbers appear to be in limbo, however. The June statistics from the Illinois Department of Employment Security show Joliet’s rate of 13.6 percent is higher than the May rate of 12.5 percent and the June 2010 rate of 13.4 percent. The June rate was the highest so far this year.
The overall Will County unemployment rate was 10.8 percent in June, up from 10 percent in May, but down from 11 percent a year ago.
“There is no doubt that there are a lot of people out of work and that’s our No. 1 concern,” said Pat Fera, manager of the Workforce Investment Board of Will County.
Unemployment figures are tied to where someone lives, even if they lost their job in another county, so that can be misleading, Fera said. There were some pretty big company closures and layoffs in other counties that have hit Will County residents hard, Fera said.
Area labor force increasing
But there are some tiny glimmers of hope, she added. For instance, it appears more people are getting into the job market, Fera said. The total labor force increased from about 364,000 in May to 372,000 in June.
“People who were previously discouraged are returning to the labor force,” she said. “We see that as a positive sign.”
Fera said she believes more employers are poised to hire because the postings on the Workforce Services job board are up 25 percent.
Also, Will County has 5,000 more jobs than it did a year ago, Fera said. But the growth in jobs regionally isn’t enough to affect the unemployment numbers just yet.
“We need more job growth in order for that to happen,” she said.
And that needs to come soon, she added. Fera agrees with Flessner that the unemployed are struggling. They’re struggling with gas prices, food prices and mortgage or rent payments.
“It’s that multiplier effect — all those things at the same time.”
Fera encouraged employers who have openings to go to Workforce Services website, jobs4people.org, to post positions at no cost. Job seekers, too, should check out the electronic job board for openings in Will County.
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