Unemployment rate at lowest since March 2009

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - The national unemployment rate is at its lowest since March 2009 with a decrease from nine percent to 8.6 percent in November 2011, according to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report.

Productive staffing office manager Leslie Watt believes the recent increase in job opportunities is partly due to seasonal staffing during the holiday season.

The temporary job services industry is a leading indicator of job growth, and has continually increased over the past several months by more than 20,000. Productive Staffing hires temporary and permanent employees. Watt said the number of people she places through her hiring agency has doubled.  "On average, I probably interview between 80 to 120 people a month," she said. "We probably have 50 percent more employees than we did last year."

A September 2011 U.S. Department of Labor report revealed unemployment decreased in Arkansas and Jonesboro, at 8.2 and 7.3 percent respectively.

Gearhead Outfitters general manager Heath Gammill said the steady growth of the locally owned store has created a need for additional staff. "Using that money to bring more people in, it only allows us to create maybe a better experience for the shopper," he said.

The report listed increased job opportunities in retail and health care.  Retail increased by 50,000, and hospitals added 9,000 jobs.

Locally, workers with technical and manual labor skills are in demand. "Our biggest increase has been in manufacturing," Watt said.

"Whether it be the IT guy doing the computer and the phones and stuff, or someone in the distribution center actually dividing out products and understanding the inventory levels," said Gammill. "That all frees us up to have the ability to help people and have even more people on our floor."

Some job categories in the report had decreases in job opportunities. State and local government has lost about 600,000 jobs since 2008.

Watt encourages people to apply for jobs regardless of their work experience, comparing job tasks in food service to working in a factory. "That doesn't mean you're disqualified from (factory work) because you've never worked there. Fast food, you know that is fast paced. You're on your feet for eight hours a day and it's multitasking."

"The main thing we're looking for is long term work history, high school diploma/GED, (and) able to pass a drug test going back 90 days."

Productive Staffing Web Site

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