Job openings plentiful, job seekers scarce as economy reopens

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A woman looks at a job application (Nexstar, file)

ILLINOIS (WCIA) — As local economies climb out of the COVID-19 recession, employers are finding it hard to fill positions as they become available.

“It’s an employee’s market,” said Laura Weis, President and CEO of the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce. “We have more job openings than we have people to fill them at the moment.”

The unemployment rate in Champaign County currently sits just above five percent, according to Weis. That is slightly higher than the county’s usual unemployment rate of three percent, but far lower than the 11 percent that it was at the start of the pandemic.

Approximately 1,600 jobs remain unfilled in Macon County, which has an unemployment rate of 7.5 percent. At the start of the pandemic, the county lost approximately 4,000 jobs and the unemployment rate skyrocketed to 15 percent.

“We’ve rebounded more than 50 percent of what we lost,” said Andrew Taylor, Economic Development Officer at the Economic Development Corporation of Decatur & Macon County. “The economy is on the rebound. We’re not quite recovered yet but we’re heading in the right direction.”

Taylor added that getting Macon County residents back to work is a key initiative the EDC is working on at this time.

“It’s important to make sure that people know that jobs are available and where they can find those jobs,” Taylor said. “There’s not one fix that we can implement to get everybody back to work but we want to make sure everybody knows.”

One fix that Weis and the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce are implementing is a job fair. The fair will happen on Sept. 21 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Hilton Garden Inn at 1501 S. Neil St. in Champaign.

Job seekers are asked to bring 37 copies of their resumes to the job fair, one for each employer expected to be present.

“Our hope is that people who are seeking jobs will be able to drop off their credentials with employers and that employers will be able to speed up the hiring process,” Weis said. “They will have the ability to do on-site interviews if they have a candidate who is a good match for their openings.”

The Chamber of Commerce will be adhering to state mandates and CDC guidelines (including the wearing of masks) during the job fair. The Chamber further asks that participants respect the differing levels of comfort that individuals may have when it comes to social distancing and handshakes.

Free parking will be available in the hotel parking lot. Participants who cannot drive can use the CUMTD 10 Gold bus route and get off at the bus stop at Kirby Ave. and State St.

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