FAIRFIELD — Some job-seekers leaving the Workforce Investment Board of Solano County career fair Thursday saw signs of an improving economy.
Not that they saw a profusion of high-paying jobs suddenly descending on the county. But they saw more opportunities than a few years ago. Call it a relative optimism – compared to rock bottom, things are looking up.
“I think there is some hope,” Vacaville resident Eileen Gonzales said.
She came to the spring career fair at the University of Phoenix, along with 603 other job-seekers. About 85 employers with 190 representatives attended, seeking workers.
Gonzales works part-time as a paraeducator for the Davis School District and part-time in retail. She’d like a full-time job with benefits, something closer to home, something with opportunities for advancement, something that would improve her financial ability to raise a 17-year-old .
“Just to find some good, solid work,” Gonzales said.
She left the career fair with leads for possible jobs with the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, a radio station and in-home health care providers.
David Trimingham of Vacaville is a substitute teacher, but said he is at a crossroads and is uncertain if he wants to be a full-time teacher. He wants an 8-to-5 job with benefits, maybe in transportation or logistics.
The job market is getting better, Trimingham said. But a lot of the jobs available aren’t the most spectacular and pay perhaps $10 an hour, he said.
Mario Betancourt of Fairfield recently left a retail job to look for something with more opportunities for advancement.
“It’s scary, very scary,” he said.
At the career fair, he found leads for jobs in such areas as cleaning and jobs involving carrying things and pushing things, he said. He paused to describe how the job market looks.
“Not necessarily getting worse,” he said. “It’s very slowly starting to move to a steady position, where everyone can apply for a job, get a job, not necessarily the best pay, but better opportunities than in 2006.”
Denise Nance of American Canyon worked in banking for 20 years, but lately has been working temporary jobs for family reasons. Now she’s ready to return to full-time work and came to the career fair.
“If you want to work, you can work,” she said. “You might start at a certain amount, get a foot in the door and go from there.”
She was optimistic about her own chances as she left the fair.
“I’ll be working shortly,” she said.
There are statistical signs that the job market is improving, even if it’s still far from robust. The county in February had a seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate of 7.9 percent, down from 9.3 percent in February 2013 and 12.2 percent in February 2011. But the rate remains far above the 5.2 percent from February 2006, before the recession hit.
The number of people attending the Workforce Investment Board career fair also hit a low for recent years. In spring 2009, more than 2,000 job-seekers came. In spring 2011, more than 1,100 came. In spring 2013, more than 700 came, with organizers attributing the drop-off to rainy weather. Now comes this spring’s number of 603 amid pleasant weather.
Workforce Investment Board Executive Director Robert Bloom said perhaps more job-seekers think their search should be done online, though Bloom sees value in the face-to-face encounters available at the career fairs. He wasn’t certain why the number of job-seekers fell this spring, but pointed out that 85 employers were there in need of workers.
“If we’re able to open our doors and have 600 people come through here, that’s great,” he said.
Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.