Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Slowly, jobs start to materialize

Major employers say demand still exceeds supply

Express Staff Writer

Torrey Hendry gets direction from Sun Valley Co. job recruiter Ashley Finlay at a job fair last week. About 150 applicants had visited the job fair by noon. Photo by Willy Cook

With spring comes new work opportunities in the Wood River Valley.

Local businesses and organizations are rolling out new job opportunities and the unemployed are showing up in droves to apply for the positions.

Idaho Department of Labor statistics show that the Idaho jobless rate dropped in April for the first time in four years, with unemployment claims in the state down 30 from the same time last year.

But Blaine County unemployment rose from 9.4 percent in April 2010 to 9.7 percent last month. That means the labor force of 12,743 people in Blaine County lost 106 jobs, compared to last April.

"Other counties were buffered by agriculture businesses," said Jan Roeser, a regional economist with the Department of Labor. "Up here, everything was clustered around real estate development and construction."

Local businesses are poised to make changes to that number as the summer begins.

Sun Valley Co. held a job fair last Friday that brought a line of about 200 people to the Boiler Room event center. They applied for food and beverage positions, salon and horse guide positions, accounting and ski mountain work.

"It was very busy," said job recruiter Ashley Finlay.

Roxy's Market in Ketchum, scheduled to open June 1, hired 30 people to work in the new grocery store, but is turning away applicants at this time.

However, the upsurge in employment opportunities is not likely to satisfy the intense demand for jobs.

John Blackman, assistant superintendent of the Blaine County School District, said close to a thousand people applied for eight positions that opened up recently at the School District, including teaching, janitorial, coaching and software development positions.

"I attribute it to unemployment rates," Blackman said. "We had 189 applicants for one para-professional position at the middle school."

Blackman said teacher applications are also up, but that Dual Immersion teaching positions (bilingual) are still hard to fill.

"We got about 10 to 20 applicants for them," he said.

St. Luke's Wood River Medical Center has five positions posted this week, including two full-time and three part-time positions. Most require prior training or degree certification.

"Almost year-round, we are hiring in many departments," said St. Luke's spokeswoman Jenny Haynes.

The jobs are posted online for at least a week.

Kim Hayes, human resources site leader at St Luke's, said she recently received 30 to 40 applications for a clerical position.

"Our jobs are posted on the web, so we get a lot of people from outside the area applying," she said.

Redfish Technology is a recruiting, or head-hunting, firm in Hailey. Recruiters working for the company find people to work in high-tech and green-tech industries.

"We just started placing ads and strategizing how to connect with the educated, motivated folks in the valley who would make great recruiters," said Anna Mathieu of Redfish.

Mathieu said the firm wants to fill five positions, for executive recruiters in its high-tech and clean-tech alternative-energy divisions. She said pay is by commission and can bring in $50,000 in the first year.

Many men and women in the valley are breaking out hoes, rakes and mowing machines to take on landscaping work this time of the year. Landscaping crews form a mainstay of the job market during summer.

Pedro Torres is the owner of Sun Valley Landscaping in Bellevue, one of many small landscaping companies in the valley.

"Usually in the springtime we get sort of busy," said Torres, who has hired two part-time people so far. "If the economy gets better, we may hire more. I do know a lot of people are looking for work."

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