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Bob Moon: Well this is encouraging: applications for jobless benefits hit a four-month low last week. That ray of hope today from the Labor Department is a sign that employers are starting to hire again.
Iowa Public Radio’s Sarah McCammon visited a job fair in Des Moines today. She found companies are looking to add jobs, although many of them are temporary. But short-term or not, that can still be seen as a good sign.
Sarah McCammon: A half-hour before this Veterans’ Day job fair officially started, job seekers were already lining up in the atrium of the county building hosting the fair. A year ago, state officials canceled the event because of lackluster response from companies looking to hire. This year, organizers had hoped for 20 — instead, they got more than 50 business and college recruiters to sign up.
One of them was temporary placement company Action Staffing Services of Des Moines. Corbon Kinney is the recruiting manager.
Corbon Kinney: I mean last year we were bringing in candidates but we didn’t have jobs; now we’re bringing in more jobs than we actually have candidates at this point.
Kinney is looking to fill about 15 positions now, and says he’s steadily hearing from companies needing to fill temporary jobs in fields like finance, construction and warehousing.
According to Labor Department data, the economy added nearly half a million temporary jobs over the past 12 months. That’s good news for people like Robert Rockwell, who’s 21 and lives in Des Moines. He’s been looking for work since losing his job at a hotel, and he’d like to work in customer service again — but mostly he just wants a job.
Robert Rockwell: A temp job is better than being unemployed. I can’t complain about any opportunity that comes my way.
But not everyone is happy with the prospect for temp work. Allen Moon, 54, is from Dexter, Iowa, with a background in real estate tax. He’s been looking for a job since August.
Allen Moon: My intent is to get a job that I can stay in and not have to be looking for a job again.
If past recessions are any indication, Moon may not have to wait long, says Steve Berchem of the American Staffing Association. In previous downturns, permanent hiring has usually picked up three to six months after temporary hiring starts to rise. But Berchem cautions this time, the lag may be longer. Employers are still not certain conditions have improved enough for permanent hiring.
Steve Berchem: That nervousness has been more prolonged, perhaps, because the recession was significantly deeper than anything we’ve had since the Great Depression.
Still, for many job seekers attending this fair, a temporary job is more than they had yesterday.
In Des Moines, I’m Sarah McCammon for Marketplace.
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