Job seekers wait in line before entering a job fair held by the California Employment Development Department in San Francisco, California. - 

Stacey Vanek Smith: Economists expect the unemployment rate in May to stay right around 8.1 percent. That number gets a lot of attention but it can be a little abstract.

So we sent Mitchell Hartman to a job center in Portland, Oregon to talk with people who are just hitting the unemployment lines.    

Mitchell Hartman: The job market is improving a bit. The number of people competing for each position is edging down. So is the average time it takes to find new work.

I met 47-year-old Dwight Dillon at a job center in Portland, Oregon.

Dwight Dillon: I’m unemployed now, I’ve been unemployed maybe a couple of weeks. Let’s see, I sold cars for a bit, I was in sales for a long time.

Dillon says he’s no stranger to looking for work.

Dillon: I moved to New Orleans years ago with $50 in my pocket. Found work in three days. Before I knew it, I was making over a thousand a week. I stayed in a shelter for a little bit, and saved my money.

Dillon says he won’t apply for unemployment benefits -- too cumbersome and time-consuming.

Dillon: Well, I mean, I just paid my child support less than a week ago, so I mean, I’m motivated. I can find day labor if I have to, first. And then from then on I’ll find more work, so I’m confident. Because there’s work available, I think.

The longer it takes him, the higher his chances of getting stuck without a job for a while.

I’m Mitchell Hartman for Marketplace.

Follow Mitchell Hartman at @entrepreneurguy