COVINGTON, Ky. - The federal government says Greater Cincinnati’s unemployment rate is only 6.4 percent.
But the Bluegrass Ballroom at the Radisson Hotel in Covington said otherwise this week. As many as 1,000 people filed through a JobNewsCincy.com job fair there Tuesday, all hoping to find a job.
Gidget Armstrong wore a dark suit and perfectly manicured nails. The Mt. Healthy woman said she was hoping to find some type of clerical job or possibly something as a bankruptcy specialist. Armstrong worked at the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Cincinnati for 15 years before she was laid off this past September.
“Good old fashioned budget cuts,” she said.
Armstrong has a bachelor’s degree from Xavier University. She worked seasonal jobs at Macy’s and Fifth Third Bank and has a severance from the government that is helping her support herself. But she knows that will run out before long, and she looks every day for a permanent job.
“Every day, I get up with the mindset that today is the day,” she said. “It’s not the end. It’s a beginning. It’s all how you process it.”
The people filing through the job fair Tuesday were young and old, black and white. Some, like Armstrong, had college degrees. Others had only a high school diploma and thought that might be holding them back.
“It kind of breaks your heart,” said Connie Nelson, general sales manager for JobNewsCincy.com.
Nelson estimated that the two dozen employers at the job fair had more than 1,000 jobs to be filled.
Integrity 1st Roof Specialists was looking for someone with social media skills, an office manager and several sales people.
Company President Dan Grimes said his sales people earn between $40,000 and $75,000 a year, depending on their commissions. For his company, though, the problem is finding people who will stick with the job, even if they hear “no” from potential customers over and over.
“I tell my kids, back in the day people went out west in the hopes of finding gold,” Grimes said. “Now I just try to put them in a truck with air conditioning to drive down the street. It’s just a different breed out there.”
Rose Stockwell isn’t afraid to work hard. She has a high school diploma and a year of college. She wants to go back to school, but it’s a question of money.
She’s worked at McDonald’s, Taco Bell and Sonic. She left her last job because she moved from Missouri to Batavia, and now she’s looking for work.
Her friend Lauren Richard was at the job fair, too. She has a job with a staffing agency, but she’s looking for something more permanent.
“I’ve done a lot of clerical stuff,” she said. “I’ve done data entry. I’ve also been a telemarketer.”
Richard, who has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and also lives in Batavia, left a call center job last August because the company was threatening to fire a lot of its staff. She’s been working staffing agency jobs since then, but she’d like to find something more permanent.
“That has been more of a struggle,” she said.
Stockwell has applied for retail jobs at Target and gas stations. But she said she couldn’t seem to get those jobs because she doesn’t have experience at places like that.
“It’s almost a Catch 22,” Richard said. “A lot of businesses, even with entry-level, want experience. And you can’t get a job to get the experience.”
Not every employer sees it that way, though.
John Steigerwald seemed eager to hire. A site manager for Atlanta-based staffing firm Randstad, Steigerwald and a colleague were at the job fair trying to fill nearly 1,700 jobs for a client he couldn’t name. The starting jobs were for mail clerks, and pay ranged from $9.25 and hour to $11.75 an hour, he said.
“It’s a huge undertaking,” he said. The company has a second shift available where people can work five hours a night for extra income, he said.
Steigerwald didn’t have much time to talk to a reporter. The Randstad table had a big bowl of candy and lots of information about the jobs available, which kept job seekers coming at a steady pace.
For many of them, it was just the latest in a series of job fairs they’ve attended in hopes of even making a connection that will lead to a job.
Charles Caldwell of Northern Kentucky has been unemployed for the past two months. He’s got a high school diploma, some college and a lifetime of experience at various jobs.
He’s been to lots of job fairs since becoming unemployed and was impressed that the JobNewsCincy.com event gave an idea of what types of positions companies were looking to fill.
“That is a relief for a job seeker,” he said. “My past experience is you go in blind, which really does stress you out. With this, you walk up, and you’ve got a clue.”
Caldwell said he understands he might need new training, and he’s open to that. He just wants a company to give him a chance at a job with a living wage.
“Sometimes I think that lack of a sheepskin makes you think you can’t really move ahead,” he said. “People I’ve met are used to making more than $10 an hour. It’s just very hard to make it on