LACEY - Nearly 500 job seekers attended a South Sound career and internship fair Tuesday, the same day the state announced that Thurston County's unemployment rate fell to 8.6 percent last month from 9 percent in February.
That’s encouraging news for those who attended the job fair because the county added 1,700 jobs in the February to March period, said Jim Vleming, a regional economist with the state Employment Security Department. Other good news: The county overall has added 200 more jobs than this time last year, although employment in construction and state government still is down 400 jobs and 800 jobs, respectively, than in the year-ago period, Vleming said.
He expects more hiring to take place in the construction sector as the weather improves and road projects get under way. “We’re going in the right direction and I look for that trend to continue over the next several months,” he said.
Seasonally adjusted statewide unemployment inched higher to 9.5 percent last month from 9.4 percent in February, while the national jobless rate remained unchanged at 9.7 percent.
Meanwhile, about 40 people lined up before the doors opened at 11 a.m. for the 2010 Career and Internship Fair, an annual event co-hosted by Saint Martin’s University and The Evergreen State College.
More than 90 employers were on hand and 467 job seekers, including students, attended the four-hour event, said Ann Adams, director of the career center at Saint Martin’s. Some of the employers Tuesday included state and federal agencies as well as the financial services company Edward Jones and the Olympia Police Department.
Adams said the job fair is a key event for job recruiters and students looking to secure an internship before they graduate. She acknowledged that the slower economy has been tough on all job seekers, but said it’s important to make those face-to-face contacts rather than sit at home, hunting for a job online. If that doesn’t work, she also encouraged job seekers to volunteer so that when the economy does improve it might result in a job.
Saint Martin’s student Brianna Clark, 25, who is studying anthropology, attended the job fair looking for an internship for next summer. Eventually she’d like to work on an archeology dig, although she didn’t find anything along those lines Tuesday. Still, she also has worked part time for Barnes & Noble booksellers for three years and that might turn into a full-time job, Clark said.
“I came away from it feeling hopeful,” said Karen Willis, 28, of Lacey, who said it was her first job fair since receiving her master’s degree in international relations from Troy University last month.
Carly Holbrooks, 19, of Olympia, who eventually wants to teach Spanish, acknowledged she probably couldn’t get a job in the current job market, but still called the job fair “very encouraging.” School district representatives at the fair said teaching positions will open up when she graduates in 2011. Her decision to learn Spanish also was praised by employers Tuesday because bilingual positions are in demand, she said.
Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403