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Job seekers look for work as seasonal employers begin to gear up

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staff, Gazette
March 15, 2013

— Judy Buldak has been babysitting and volunteering since she lost her job at an Illinois woodworking company more than two years ago.

Restructuring at U.S. Cellular left Norman DeLaney III unemployed back in August, so he's trying to find an employer that wants his years of experience in sales training and management.

Russ Wuttke's seasonal job on a farm ended in December and he has been without work since then. They want him back for next season, but that won't start for months.

Buldak, DeLaney and Wuttke were among more than 500 people who came to Gateway Technical College's Elkhorn campus Thursday looking for work at the annual Walworth County Job Fair.

There to greet them were 39 employers hoping to fill jobs that varied from part-time summer work to high-skill engineers at manufacturing plants.

"I've got a lot of experience, and I feel like I've still got something to offer people," Buldak said, filling out an application for Alpine Valley Music Theater. "I don't want to always be a babysitter."

The economy in Walworth County has been even recently, according to Mike Van Den Bosh, executive director of the Walworth County Economic Development Alliance.

Employers in the area haven't been laying people off, Van Den Bosh said, but they also are not launching new projects that could bring more jobs.

"We're not seeing a huge uptick in activity on our side, whether it be expansion talk or … big hires," Van Den Bosh said. "It's very steady right now."

The county's unemployment rate was 7 percent as of December 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That puts Walworth County between the national level of 7.7 percent and Wisconsin's 6.7 percent jobless rate.

These few months are a particularly difficult time for the local economy, Van Den Bosh said, as seasonal jobs in agriculture, tourism and even manufacturing are often wrapped up before the first months of a new year.

But he said Thursday's job fair comes as seasonal employers, especially those in the tourism and resort industry around Lake Geneva, are starting to ramp up their hiring before the stronger summer employment season.

Those jobs would be nice, Wuttke said, but he is looking for something more than just a seasonal gig or a part-time paycheck. He wants a career.

"I'm looking more for health insurance, retirement and that kind of stuff," Wuttke said. "I want to be able to retire from that job."

The problem is that those kinds of jobs require a big commitment from employers, Van Den Bosh said. And in an economy still rife with uncertainty, he said, it's temporary work that makes the most sense.

"Most employers don't want to bring in people and then have to lay them off right away because things slow down," Van Den Bosh said. "That's why you're not seeing a lot of the positions—those professional, salaried, full-time positions—coming in.

"And that's why a lot of the lower-wage, part-time positions are increasing."

But he said Thursday's job fair comes as seasonal employers, especially those in the tourism and resort industry around Lake Geneva, are starting to ramp up their hiring before the stronger summer employment season.

Those jobs would be nice, Wuttke said, but he is looking for something more than just a seasonal gig or a part-time paycheck. He wants a career.

"I'm looking more for health insurance, retirement and that kind of stuff," Wuttke said. "I want to be able to retire from that job."

The problem is that those kinds of jobs require a big commitment from employers, Van Den Bosh said.

And in an economy still rife with uncertainty, he said, it's temporary work that makes the most sense.

"Most employers don't want to bring in people and then have to lay them off right away because things slow down," Van Den Bosh said. "That's why you're not seeing a lot of the positions—those professional, salaried, full-time positions—coming in.

"And that's why a lot of the lower-wage, part-time positions are increasing."


 

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