More than 2,000 attend Perry job fair

PERRY -- Hundreds of people were waiting Thursday morning when the doors opened to the Georgia Department of Labor’s annual job fair in Houston County.

It took a while for them to squeeze inside, but the good news was that a record 102 organizations, most of them hiring, were waiting for them. The previous record was 84.

Jane Simpson, manager of the Department of Labor’s Houston County Career Center, said the increase in participating companies is a good sign.

“I’m so hoping it’s because they are starting to hire,” she said. “We are seeing an upturn in hiring, and we are so hopeful that is going to continue.”

When the fair ended, Simpson said 2,032 job seekers had come, compared to about 1,700 last year. The previous year about 3,000 came out.

Department of Labor figures released Thursday indicated the state’s unemployment rate increased to 9 percent in June, up from 8.9 percent in May.

Terry Price, a recruiter for Texas Freight Services of Georgia, was at the job fair hiring truck drivers. The company serves the Academy Sports Distribution Center in Twiggs County. The company requires two years experience, so he was having a hard time finding qualified candidates. Drivers are often in short supply, he said, because many are excluded from the field due to their driving record.

“If they have a certain number of points on their driving record, then they are uninsurable, and if they are uninsurable, we can’t hire them,” Price said.

Employers that did not require previous experience, such as Home Depot, seemed to have the longest lines.

Labor Commissioner Mark Butler attended the event, and said it is one of the largest job fairs in the state. Although it is billed as a job fair for veterans, it is open to everyone. He said job fairs are a good way to efficiently bring employers and job seekers together.

“It really helps the job seeker to see what’s out there, talk face to face to an employer and see what they are really looking for,” Butler said. “A lot of times you don’t really pick up from an ad. This is like speed interviewing.”

For many years, the fair was held at the Museum of Aviation at Robins Air Force Base, but it got so big that last year it was moved to the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter. At the request of a veterans group, the Macon Transit Authority provided a bus for wounded veterans to go to the job fair.

Melvin Goodwyne, of Macon, has a full-time job as a nurse’s aide, but he said it only pays $7.69 an hour, so he was at the fair looking for a second job. Goodwyne, 55, and an Army vet, said he has sought a second job for some time without success.

“It’s pretty rough,” he said. “I’ve been around for a while, but I’ve never seen times like this before.”

To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.