When the COVID-19 pandemic struck the United States, what had been a record-low unemployment rate in Alabama jumped up into the teens. The latest unemployment figures for October, 3.7% in Limestone County, show the economy has vastly improved since then, but many people remain out of work.
Executive Director Tina Cook with the Athens-Limestone County Family Resource Center said that contrary to what some people may think, there are “lots and lots” of jobs available locally for those who want them.
“We hear it all the time, because we have a program where we stand in the gap for people who are unemployed, and we want to do that for people who need help,” Cook said. “We don't want to stand in the gap to keep you from getting a job, though. There are jobs, and sometimes you do things in the interim until things open back up.”
The resource center, located at 406 S. Jefferson St., is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. Cook said the center houses two different agencies that work to help people find employment.
The first is Alabama Career Center, represented by Jaquata Thompson. She is at the resource center in Athens on Tuesdays and Fridays.
“I try to assist the customers with preparing a resume if they need help and looking for jobs,” Thompson said. “Some of them come in and want to go to school for training. I assist in any way I can to help them find a job.”
Thompson said Alabama Career Center can help people find employment even on days she is not in the Athens office. She has computers available for people seeking jobs, which can be used whenever the resource center is open.
“All (people) need to do is tell the ladies at the front desk they would like to use them,” she said.
Thompson also has a white board behind her desk where she keeps information on “hot jobs” with companies that are actively looking for new employees.
“There are lots of places that are looking,” she said. “It might not be what someone has done before, but they are still jobs. There are several grocery stores hiring, and probably every major retail store and several factories in the area.”
Thompson said if someone has not found employment in their chosen field within six months, it may be time to broaden their search.
“Try new things,” she said. “Take your skills and build on them.”
The other agency found at the resource center is Express Employment Services. Kim Whitworth, who owns the local branch of the company, is available to help people find employment in Athens on Tuesdays.
“We are a staffing employment agency,” Whitworth said. “Some people think it's temporary jobs, but that's not what we do. These companies are looking to hire people on a full-time basis.”
Whitworth said she and her employees go out and work with companies who are looking to hire, then match people with those jobs.
“There are jobs out there,” she said. “People that want to go to work can. We have warehouse, assembly and office jobs. I sent two people (Tuesday) for office jobs. I think I have 87 open positions right now, all shifts. They are anything from entry-level manufacturing to skilled labor.”
Whitworth said she feels it is not any more difficult to find a job today than normal, even while dealing with coronavirus.
“I would say it's the same,” she said. “It's definitely not harder. Some people are hesitant because of COVID, but there are jobs out there. Every company we work for has precautions in place.”
Email email@example.com or call the resource center at 256-230-0880 for more information on employment or to schedule an appointment.