FOX47 NEWS - New Job Center, Unemployment Drops

Jeff Angileri
Jun 15, 2009, 10:39 PM

The South Madison Health and Family Service Center -- Harambee helps people with education and medical needs. Now, it's adding job hunting to that list.

The dedication comes at a time when the job outlook is looking brighter.

Experts say, during an economic recovery, unemployment is one of the last things to get better. Now, according to workforce development numbers, it is.

At Harambee, trained employees help people look for job openings, do career research, and put people in touch with other resources like resume help.

The Harambee job center is one of 20 portal sites in the works. The idea is -- these locations will be much more convenient in terms of traveling, and because some of these places carry multiple services like healthcare and education -- people are already there.

The other new job locations are in Reedsburg, Portage, Fort Atkinson and Watertown.

There's no shortage of need, but there's definitely a shortage of relief, said Seth Lentz, on the Workforce Development Board of South Central Wisconsin.

Organizers at Harambee say they heard a cry for help.

While people are coming for a doctors appointment you find out that they were recently laid off, so it adds to their health, it adds to their stress, said Jennifer Lord, Harambee executive director.

Workforce experts call it a ripple of economic stress.

It really is closely related to how people feel about a recession, said Laura Dresser with Center on Wisconsin Strategy. How secure they feel, how likely or easy it is for them to find a job if they do get laid off.

But the tide is turning. Wisconsin's unemployment rate dropped from 9.4 percent in March to 8.8 percent in April. The trend is similar for new weekly unemployment claims -- just over 21,000 last week, down from 27,000 in April.

It's not that things are getting better yet. It's that they're getting bad less fast, said Dresser.

Dresser says the numbers are good news, but not great news. One example -- the continuing unemployment claims while lower, still number 164,481.

Those folks are in a very hard labor market where the lines to get into a job are longer, the number of postings are down, Dresser said. It's a very hard position to be in. You have unemployment insurance, so you could probably hold onto your house or feed your family. But, you're scraping to get by, and you're worried about the future.

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