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Wages are a big topic at St. Petersburg job fair

There are some indications the labor market is starting to tighten.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Florida’s unemployment rate just hit another low last month, making it that much more competitive for dozens of potential employers at a job fair in St. Petersburg.

With the state’s unemployment rate hovering at 2.5%, you might wonder who the applicants are still looking for work and what kinds of opportunities are out there.

Inside the St. Pete Coliseum, dozens of potential employers and hundreds of would-be employees hoped to make a match. Many, unlike in years past, already had a job. But they we’re looking for a career change, advancement or a work-life balance.

“Move up and grow,” said Jude Cineas, a recent USF grad. “And you know, learn more skills and enhance the skills I have right now.”

Even in this market, some remain unemployed.

John Gorman just lost his job last month after more than three decades. He says he’s part of a recent wave of downsizing.

“Yes, unfortunately, you’re starting to see that right now. I’m one of them myself,” Gorman said. “But, around the country, you’re seeing it as well.”

Vendors who took part in this same job fair about six months ago say back then there were far more potential employers participating. This time, they say, there were more people looking for a job. 

That could indicate the labor market is starting to tighten — especially with so many moving here.

Aaron Henschel just arrived from Wyoming a couple of weeks ago after working in the oil industry. He’s frustrated, he said, by how hard it’s been to find a job willing to pay him what he knows his skills are worth.

“I’m hopeful. I’ve had some good leads,” Henschel said. “But I feel like it shouldn’t have been this hard to find decent opportunities in this big of a place.”

Those doing the hiring say it’s absolutely a problem. Wages, they say, are not keeping pace with the cost of living in our region – and so, people are keeping their jobs or waiting on the sideline for better pay.

"There is a lot of competition right now there are way more employers looking for employees than there are available people for these positions," said Coryn Delegro with Express Employment Professionals.

Some said it would not surprise them to see unemployment start to increase again, especially if the economy slows down.

But for those willing to be flexible, they say there’s still plenty of opportunity and reason to stay positive.

“I have to,” Gorman said. “It might not be exactly what I want, but hey, it is what it is and go with it, and make the best out of what you get.”

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