Local unemployment numbers hold firm

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 18, 2002

Unemployment in the United States decreased to 5.8 percent in May, the Labor Department announced June 7. In the last few months Mower County's unemployment has stayed lower than the national average, hovering around 4 percent. The latest numbers show it dropped .5 percent to 3.6 percent in April, according to the Minnesota Workforce Center.

"Our unemployment in Austin has been low through all this," Sandy Forstner of the Austin

Chamber of Commerce said of the slow economy.

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In the Austin area permanent jobs have not increased, but more temporary employment opportunities have become available, according to employment services in Austin.

The Workforce Center helps people find permanent employment through counseling and by informing people about job openings.

"It's pretty much stayed the same," Nagel said of employment opportunities in the area. "It's still a little bit on the slow side."

She has noticed that people filing for unemployment has gone down some, but that may be because there are more seasonal employment opportunities in the summer. People can file for unemployment on-line, over the phone or by filling out forms at the Workforce Center so Nagel only knows about people who file for unemployment through the forms the Workforce Center provides.

The Workforce Center has been busy this year with a steady flow of people coming in for services.

"One minute you have nobody in the office, a minute later the lobby is full," Nagel said.

Some local companies are hiring more permanent and temporary employees. Austin Packaging has been hiring more employees since business picked up in January, said Laura Beckel, director of human resources. They have been hiring temporary employees for first shift and permanent workers for third.

"Our hardest shift to fill is third," Beckel said.

Julie Diaz, office manager at Specialty Services, has noticed an increase in temporary jobs in the area.

"It's just been really busy," she said.

More temporary jobs are available this year than last year at this time, Diaz said, mostly in construction and packaging.

"We've actually been busy since January," Diaz said.

In the last month 150 people have applied for jobs and 100 have been hired. Employers are looking for temporary help because they are not sure if they can afford to hire full-time employees, she said. But Diaz also has seen an increase in permanent jobs. Usually a company will hire someone as a temporary worker and hire them on full time later.

"They try to be fair," Diaz said of the employers that use Specialty Services. "If they are good workers, they try to keep them."

Diaz hopes more employment opportunities will be available later this year.

Cari Quam can be reached at 434-2235 or by e-mail at cari.quam@austindailyherald.com