Working to find employment
Resumes in hand, hundreds crowd annual job fair

LAWRENCEVILLE - Georgia's labor department reported Thursday that the state's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate climbed two-tenths percentage points in the last month to reach 10.3 percent in July.

That's up 4.1 percentage points since the same time last year and marks the 21st consecutive month the state's rate remained above the national unemployment rate, currently 9.4 percent.

"Although layoffs are moderating, nearly a half-million Georgians are officially unemployed," Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond said. "These jobless workers could comprise a mythical unemployment line that stretches from Dalton to Atlanta, through Macon and down to Valdosta."

On Thursday afternoon, some of that mythical unemployment line formed at the Gwinnett Center as Gwinnett's Chamber of Commerce and the Gwinnett Medical Center sponsored the 29th annual Expo and Job Fair.

The lines to enter the job fair were long, too, with some people waiting about half an hour just to get in to the four-hour fair. Some people even began showing up to get in 90 minutes before the doors opened.

"It's a sign of the times," said the chamber's Demming Bass while looking out at the line waiting to enter. "You've got unemployment that just set a record here in Georgia, and there are folks out there that are looking for good jobs. We're fortunate that we have some of those companies here that can offer those good jobs."

One of those companies that many people seemed interested in was NCR, the technology company in the process of relocating its corporate headquarters to Duluth.

Bass said from what he's heard of the 1,300 jobs coming here as part of NCR's relocation, only about 300 of those jobs will be relocating from Ohio.

"The rest are going to be hired locally," he said.

According to Bill Ryan, a NCR human resources spokesman, in four hours Thursday the company probably spoke to 500 to 600 people.

"It went very well," Ryan said. "I was impressed with the turnout and the crowd."

He also confirmed the company is looking for people to fill positions for those who will not be relocating from Ohio. Those departments looking to hire include information technology, human resources, engineering and customer service among others.

"All our positions are listed online, so I'd encourage everyone to get on our Web site and apply online," he said. "That's still our main portal."

Bass said the long lines of people job searching in Gwinnett speaks highly of the county's economic environment.

"Since 2000, Gwinnett has led the state in job creation," Bass said. "We've had more jobs created in Gwinnett than in Fulton, Cobb and DeKalb combined since 2000. ... It doesn't surprise me that you have people here from all over looking for those job opportunities because we're one of those kind of rare gems out there in that we do have job opportunities that are happening here."

That's what brought out Bethlehem's Walter Bell to his first job fair. Unemployed for 19 months now, Bell was just looking to get back in the working game after striking out with his own trucking business.

"I'm a certified pipe welder and pipe fitter also," Bell said. "I don't know if this place can help me with that or not."