Tampa job fair shows more signs of economic recovery

Published April 13 2017
Updated April 13 2017

TAMPA — If CareerSource's job fair on Wednesday is any indication, Tampa Bay's economic recovery has some steam.

In sharp contrast to a few years ago, most employers at the day-long event had open positions to fill (instead of just taking resumes) and many of the job seekers were either only recently unemployed or were looking to upgrade from their current jobs.

Angels Unaware, a residential facility for the developmentally disabled, was hiring for four positions, including a director and a managerial slot. Johnson & Johnson global services was looking to fill around 30 positions, most of them in their human relations and IT departments.

Steve Richard, operations manager at nurse staffing company NurseCore, hoped to staff a large number of nursing positions.

"We're trying to get as many as possible," he said.

On the other side of the fence: many job-seekers interviewed at the fair had been unemployed for less than a month. Sean Jones, a Tampa-based construction worker, recently moved down from Maryland. He was looking for work after his crew was laid off following a project's completion three weeks ago.

"I wasn't really being too picky when I walked in here because there's a lot of good opportunities in there," he said at the fair. "I hope it works out for the best for me."

The construction sector was nearly cut in half during the recession. Now, however, it is the fastest growing industry in the state, as Florida added almost 35,000 jobs from February 2016 to February 2017.

Some job seekers were looking to trade up to a better-paying position. Riverview resident Tanea Milbourne, who works in a customer service center, sought a call center job with higher pay. She felt optimistic after seeing the number of available jobs.

"I found a lot (of options) in there, more than I was expecting," she said.

Others, such as Greg Wojciechowicz, were trying to move from part-time to full-time positions. Wojciechowicz works part-time in a reception position through the AARP's senior work placement program. He has a hodgepodge of qualifications from a dental assistant certification to experience in landscape design and a former position in the Department of Corrections.

"I feel better than when I came because the places that I got leads on, I didn't even know they existed," Wojciechowicz said.

Florida's unemployment rate has settled around 5 percent for January and February, steady from the same time last year, according to state data.

While it seems that economic recovery has plateaued to some extent, many Floridians have grown bullish. A recent survey from the University of Florida showed consumer confidence has risen to a 15-year high.

Contact Malena Carollo at [email protected] Follow @malenacarollo.