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Taking the temp at the job fairs

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Monday, December 01, 2008

STATEWIDE As a recession settles in and jobs become scarce, career and job fairs serve as yet another barometer of economic times.

Lonnie Martinez knows first-hand what job fairs can say about the overall business atmosphere. Martinez, a job fair coordinator for the Oregon Employment Department, is usually called upon to organize mini job fairs in the fall for employers seeking temporary help for the busy holiday season. This year he did none.

“Nobody mentioned anything about the holidays,” he says.

Deb Chereck, director of the University of Oregon’s career center, says jobs aren’t as plentiful these days, but a recent UO job fair had 89 employers attending. “We are not seeing yet a dropoff in the number of employers,” she says.

Part of the reason is employers want to stay visible for when the economy does turn around. At the UO fair there were fewer commercial banks than in previous years, not surprising considering the current financial turmoil. One investment firm that attends annually told Chereck they expected to offer half the positions they usually do.

OregonLive/The Oregonian held a career fair at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland last month where there were just a few employers attending. One of them, the Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center booth, had a long line of job seekers.

Martinez says while there have been fewer requests for job fairs by employers this holiday season, he’s acutely aware that many people are looking for work. At the Maximum Connections job fair held at the Oregon Zoo in September, 2,200 people attended. Last year 800 people came. “It’s an employers’ market right now,” he says.                  


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