Too few job fairs, too many job seekers
Well, try 3,000 versus 30. That's the lopsided mix of job hunters that showed up at the Coliseum in St. Petersburg Wednesday to try and get the attention of just 30 potential hiring businesses. Check out St. Petersburg Times photographer Dirk Shadd's shot of the folks waiting to get into the Coliseum. And here's the Times' story -- one of several we'll look at -- as a proxy for Tampa Bay's high unemployment rate. Officially, Tampa Bay's unemployment rate is 7.8 percent but that's a November measure. I assure you it's over 8 percent now. Economists expect Tampa Bay to reach nearly 9-percent unemployed but I wonder if that's already too conservative.
Even my estimated 8-percent figure under-reports the jobless scene. Thousands more people want full-time work but can only get part-time jobs. Include those workers and the so-called "total unemployment rate" swells to more than 14 percent. That includes folks officially unemployed, part-timers who seek more hours, and thousands more who would like a job but tell pollsters from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that they are too discouraged to look.
It's a double whammy. Observers note a fear among employers that if they fail to shed workers quickly their companies might go under in what may be the worst recession since the 1930s.
Which brings us back to Wednesday's job fair in St. Petersburg, where job seekers were encouraged to show up with 20 copies of their resumes and a "positive attitude." Jason Greif, 28, from Tampa (in another photo by Dirk Shadd), showed up to fill out an application. He was self-employed in construction and has been out of work for about a year. He's looking for a job in sales or management.
Jonathan Hurley, out of work for a year and a half, also was there looking for a sales job. "It's really intense I've never seen it like this before. I'm 58 years old and I've just never seen it like this," Hurley told Fox 13. He told Fox his rainy day funds are running dry: "I've lowered my -- and I never thought I would do this, but I've lowered my goals. I just want to seek part time work now," he said.
There are other job fairs coming. One is called TechNet Tampa on March 5 with an emphasis on the military. Another fair is scheduled for April at the Sheraton Tampa Riverwalk Hotel. This Web site also offers six tips (see the Spotlight Video to get more details) which seem like good ones, for those attending job fairs:
(1) Get your resume up to date and keep it precise;
(2) Do your homework about the companies you may be speaking to;
(3) Hone your pitch to 30 seconds (your "elevator" pitch) and don't babble;
(4) Speak to all recruiters even if the positions available may not immediately seem to fit;
(5) Dress professionally (some Floridians still need to work on this one);
(6 -- this one is key) Follow up each lead. Don't just leave a resume and wonder why nobody calls.
Finally, here's a state Web site that may offer some job-hunting help, especially for government positions. Good luck!
-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist