Online job fair planned amid historic unemployment spike

WYOMING, Mich. (WOOD) — Amid historic unemployment numbers, there is still hiring going on.

“The numbers today were certainly historic,” said Grand Valley State University Economist Paul Isely, regarding the release Friday of national unemployment numbers, which showed a rate of 14.7% — more than three times what the numbers were in March.

The national numbers were taken April 12, and the next round will be worse, likely above 20%, Isely says.

He says when Michigan’s numbers come out for March, they will likely be worse than the national numbers — somewhere around 20%.

This is all a result of the necessary shutdown of the economy to save lives from the spread of COVID-19.

But Wyoming-based Express Employment Professionals is holding what they call a virtual job fair Monday and Wednesday.

“Right now, we are looking for everything from forklift operators, machine operators, assembly to customer service positions to human resources, engineering, so really a wide range,” said Marketing Director David Robb.

Some jobs are ready to fill now, especially those in skilled trades and those manufacturing positions needed to make protective equipment.

“Even though unemployment is high, there aren’t a lot of people looking for jobs right now,” Robb said. “Some of that is because people are a little scared, they’re a little nervous about going to work, they may want to stay home,”

He says more than 100 companies are participating in the job fair, including positions in delivery, accounting, engineering and light industrial jobs.

Others are interviewing now for jobs that will open in the future as restrictions lift.

Robb said these jobs could be a stop-gap until employment returns.

“We’re trying to make it as easy as possible for people as low tech as possible,” Robb said

Job seekers can go online and pick a time for an interview. They will then be interviewed by the staff at Express Employment, which may then lead to an in-person or virtual interview with an employer.

“It’s good to start looking now because you kind of want to get ahead of it, once restrictions start to lift, once some of that added unemployment benefit starts to phase out, that’s when everyone is going to be out there looking for a job,” Robb said. “I think at least initially for several months, it won’t be the job seekers market it was before.”

“April will probably be the height of our unemployment, and we probably get better all the way through May and June,” Isley said.

So, what will it look like after things start to return to something like normal?

“We know that extremely elevated employment is going to disappear very quickly once we’re able to reopen parts of the economy,” Isley said.

In West Michigan, health care was one of the hardest-hit segments in terms of unemployment and those jobs are coming back.

But it is unlikely that will mean a return to the low numbers we saw before in part because as much as 20% of shuttered businesses will not return.

Isley said for a while, the numbers could hover around 7%, which is not much different from 2009.

“What are we looking like when we’re in June, is the virus starting to die down and are people feeling secure enough to buy stuff again, if they are, we’re going to be looking back at the end of the year and saying ‘wow, that was a wild ride,’” Isley said. “If that’s not what we see and the virus comes back and we have to shut down again or we have to do phased shutdowns in the economy, we’re going to get to the endos this year saying ‘wow, when is this going to end?’”

More information about the job fair can be found online.