Job seekers find possibilities at Newport Job Fair

NEWPORT, AR (KAIT) – Hiring nationwide has crept up slowly, but steadily.

The Labor Department reported recently that only 80,000 jobs were added in June, and several businesses in Jackson County are looking to add more in the near future.

Approximately 20 local businesses spoke to job seekers Thursday, accepting applications at the Newport Job Fair.

The Newport Economic Development Commission  (NEDC) has hosted the job fair for the past six years, but, this year, organizers say fewer people came to either find a job or get a better one.

Kimberly King of Tuckerman recently decided to look for work again after having her second child seven months ago.

"Being a mother of two and being kind of picky about where I want to work and the hours I'm available," the stay-at-home mom said, "there's just not been anything grab my attention at all."

King held out hope to find something at the Newport Job Fair, but she says she found the search frustrating.

"I very much love Jackson County," she said. "I love living here. It's where my family is. It's where I've graduated school, but I feel like it's just kind of one of the hazards of living here is there's just not a lot of opportunity for people like me at all."

King may not have found what she was looking for Thursday, but organizers at least made the process easy.

"(People) walk in. They can register at the front desk," explained Jon Chadwell, the NEDC executive director. "They come and fill out one application, then we can make multiple copies of that application and they can walk through and give it to every business they're interested in."

Chadwell said the number of job seekers seemed lower this year, adding that Jackson County has recently seen its unemployment rate drop. Attendance, however, is not what truly matters, at least according to Chadwell.

"Every person that finds a job at the job fair, that's a measure of success," he said. "I don't care how many come through or how many jobs are open. It's when the person and the job get matched up that we have success at the job fair."

Employers like supplemental benefits company Aflac came to the fair, hoping to hire as many new workers as possible.

"We can't hire enough people," said Aaron Smith, an Aflac benefit consultant. "We're just looking for the right people, qualified people, dedicated people, people willing to learn and start a new career."

Most of the businesses had a minimum of two openings to fill, and Margaret Gates with Harris Hospital says she has had success finding help at the fair in the past.

"You never know (who) might come through," Gates said, "and if we found someone that was qualified and everything, that would take care of that opening for us. If we weren't here, we would miss that opportunity, and they would miss that opportunity with us."

Gene Morris, a senior at Newport High School, spent a few hours at the fair looking for part-time employment. He would like to save up some money for college and eventually become a police officer.

"I just want to let my generation know it's important to have a job," Morris said, "so if you really want a job, they're out here. All you have to do is work hard for them."

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