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Temporary Workers Find It Tough To Get Jobs

As the unemployment rate continues to increase so do the number of people seeking temporary work. WOSU reports some temp agencies also are struggling - there are not enough jobs to fill the demand for work.

A small television with "rabbit ears" sits atop a water cooler in Labor Ready, a temp agency specializing in blue collar jobs, on West Broad Street. The game show The Price Is Right is the only sound in the small office. A middle-aged man stands watching the TV - his hands are stuffed into the front pouch of his gray, hooded sweatshirt.

Bill Evans, a soft-spoken man, lives in the Hilltop neighborhood. He's a construction worker and has used Labor Ready for about seven years to make extra money when times are slow. Evans is getting ready to call it a day, though. He's waited six hours for something - so far nothing.

"Well, I've left my phone number. I'm keeping a positive outlook, though," Evans smiled.

"Seeing people watch and wait everyday for four and five hours and, you know, not be able to go out and have to go home and just hope and pray they get to go out tomorrow," Sachin Gupta said.

Gupta is the agency's West Broad Street branch manager. Until recently, he was unemployed. He describes day-to-day operations at Labor Ready as "grim."

"You get a lot of phone calls from people everyday [saying] 'do you have anything, do you have anything?' And it seems like those phone calls keep increasing every single day," he said.

In November, more than 434,000 Ohioans were without jobs. Although the state has not yet released its December unemployment figures, it's likely to follow the national trend. The national jobless rate increased to 7.2 percent in December.

Gupta said he continues to see companies lay off workers and he said they're not hiring temporary workers just yet.

"Right now everybody's scared to do anything. So everybody's kind of at a standstill. So for us to get people out right now is kind of a struggle. And, you know, you see people more coming in and less people being able to go out right now," Gupta said.

While Labor Ready has a line at the front door daily there's at least one placement firm that has not experienced quite the same influx. Chris DeCapua is a partner at Dawson Resources.

"It's been relatively flat."

Dawson Resources it's a lot different than Labor Ready. Its offices are nicely furnished and modern, its lobby has a new flat screen TV. The firm is geared toward more professional work like health care, accounting, engineering and IT, although it does help place light industrial workers.

"We are not seeing a lot of more people coming into our branches looking for work though. It isn't like everyday there is a line of people out our door that are looking for work. People seem to find something. Whether it's something they've done before in the trade industry. We're just not seeing the volume of people that you would expect from what you hear," DeCapua said.

Another local temporary job agency, Spherion, is similar to Dawson Resources in that it finds work for white collar workers as well as blue collar. But Spherion's regional vice president Tom Erb, said the company has had an increase in employment inquiries.

"We've definitely seen a spike in the number of applicants that we've received and it is because people have been laid off. And we're seeing it across all different types of skill sets," Erb said.

Marcus Sandver is a professor of management and human resources at Ohio State University's Fischer College of Business. He said a lot of people are choosing unemployment instead of looking for temporary work.

"And they'll wait until their unemployment benefits run out before they go to a temporary agency. And I think many people are also kind of hoping that there's going to be some kind of resurgence, you know, in the spring and things are going to get better and they're not going to have to go to work with a temporary agency," Sandver said.

In Ohio, a person can get unemployment benefits for up to 26 weeks. But if new jobs do not become available soon, and the people who currently receive unemployment use up their benefits, temporary agencies may see even more demand for short-term work. Labor Ready's Sachin Gupta said temporary agencies already are competing vigorously for placements.

"You know our district manager wanted us to go out to talk to other temp agencies to find out what's going on with them, and everybody's experiencing the same thing. It's kind of, it's kind of went from, you know, it's enough business to more of like a cut throat, you know, I'm going to go get that business and everybody rushing out to see and get what they can," Gupta noted.

Meanwhile in the lobby, the wait continues.

"It's William Candia. C-a-n-i-d-a. I live here on the West Side," he said.

Canida is 33-years-old. He works at the Wal-Mart distribution center in Grove City. He's supposed to get 36 hours a week, but his time has been cut. Canida is behind on his mortgage. He's trying to make ends meet until he can sell his house at a loss. Canida's taken assignments that are as short as three hours and pay $26. But he occasionally draws the line.

"They actually offered me a job to go out and dress up like a clown and try to get people to come into an apartment complex. But that's not the kind of work that I do, you know, so...I'm just trying to get this short sale done and we're going to move out of state. And move somewhere where there is work," Canida said.