TRAVERSE CITY — Curtis Hill lost his welding and forklift job after Tower Automotive closed and laid off more than 300 workers in the dark, auto slump days of 2008.
Hill was all smiles this week after talking to employers at Northwestern Michigan College’s seventh annual Career Fair. He’s looking for a maintenance job in the field of renewable energy after earning two associate degrees at NMC.
“I’ve already met some nice people with some good job opportunities,” he said.
The job fair was held on the eve of Friday’s Bureau of Labor Statistics’ announcement of unemployment numbers. February’s unemployment dipped to 7.7 percent — the lowest level in more than four years.
Employers added 236,000 jobs last month to non-farm payrolls. That’s 7,000 more than January. Applications for unemployment benefits hit their lowest level in four years, but 12 million people remain unemployed, the bureau reported.
The Hagerty Conference Center buzzed with job applicants on Thursday, most dressed ready to interview, a very few wearing chef whites or jeans. NMC officials reported that about 325 job seekers, a higher number than last year, showed up. Nearly 90 employers were stationed at tables armed with colorful brochures and application forms.
Dana Quigley, 30, recently quit her management job at a retail store, leaving, as she put it, an unhappy situation. She wants to put her accounting degree to work at a full-time job, but found many employers only want seasonal or part-time employees.
That was what Bay Area Pet Hospital was trolling for: someone part-time or seasonal to work the front desk or on clinical staff, said Joanne Graham, office manager.
Graham was happy with a small pile of resumes collected in just half an hour.
Courtney Kuehling, 19, of Traverse City was a bit discouraged. She dropped out of high school two years ago after having a baby. Employers want workers with experience, and she doesn’t have much under her belt. But she does plan on furthering her education beyond her GED.
“I went to Planned Parenthood and Crystal Mountain. They told me to put in an application anyway,” she said.