Job fair at Augusta State draws 1,800

TaShara Lee, 23, and Jeffro Powell, 22, are getting married Saturday. They're also both looking for a job.

On Thursday, they joined about 1,800 job seekers at a job fair at Augusta State University's athletic center.

Ms. Lee, a Thomson native, graduated last month with a bachelor's degree in art from Piedmont College in Demorest, Ga. Mr. Powell is studying digital entertainment gaming through online classes and will graduate next year. They've been dividing their time between wedding planning and job hunting.

"I don't know what's really going to come out of it. We just came here to give it a try," Ms. Lee said of the job fair.

She learned about opportunities with a television station, staffing agencies and BeautiControl Inc., which employs independent beauty consultants. Mr. Powell explored jobs with T-Mobile and several colleges and a position as a forklift operator.

Sixty employers, including T-Mobile, Michelin, Conklin, Shaw Industries, Sitel and FPL Food LLC, were present to discuss available positions, said Greg Criste, the chairman of the Greater Augusta Employer Committee.

"We've been blown away by the turnout today, employers and applicants. Most of them are hiring, and we've got one or two who are expecting to hire in the next month or so," Mr. Criste said. "We even had some government agencies from South Carolina."

Some employers, including Shaw Industries and FPL Food LLC, had long lines of job applicants. Nearly 200 job seekers were waiting for the doors to open. There were 1,000 people in the first hour, Mr. Criste said.

There is plenty of demand for jobs. The Georgia Department of Labor released county-level unemployment rates Thursday. Metro Augusta's rate rose to 9.3 percent in May, up from 8.3 percent in April.

The state's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate jumped to 9.7 percent in May, the highest ever recorded in Georgia, according to the state.

Joshua Grant, 27, was laid off in May from Medical College of Georgia Hospitals and Clinics, where he worked as a customer service representative. He was looking for entry-level and medical-related jobs.

"Anything, really. There's so many people in there who are apparently out of work. It's definitely a tough marketplace," Mr. Grant said. "I found a few things. I'm just trying to keep a positive attitude about it."

Reach LaTina Emerson at (706) 823-3227 or latina.emerson@augustachronicle.com.

UNEMPLOYMENT RISES IN AUGUSTA AREA DURING MAY

The percentage of those jobless in each county in the metro Augusta area:

COUNTYMAYAPRIL
Burke10.7 %10.2 %
Columbia6.8 %5.8 %
McDuffie10.8 %9.2 %
Richmond9.6 %8.6 %
Area S.C. counties10.2 %9.5 %

Source: Georgia Department of Labor