Employers struggle finding workers with Knoxville’s low unemployment rate

Local News

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Job News USA hosted a citywide job fair Wednesday, where 25 companies were able to meet face-to-face with hundreds of people seeking jobs.

The job seekers were also able to learn more about employment opportunities and meet a potential future employer face-to-face, something not too common in the era of online applications.

According to the United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Knoxville’s unemployment rate is 3.1%, which is lower than the national unemployment rate at 3.6%.

Matt Murray, director of the Howard Baker Center at the University of Tennessee, said the low unemployment rate means more people have jobs.

Since more people have jobs, less people are looking for work.

Employers also have a hard time finding qualifying candidates for work.

“So what we’re seeing with a tight labor market, record low unemployment rates, is very consistent with what will be record long economic expansion. The economy is growing and growing and growing and we’re simply running out of workers,” Murray said.

Lisa Zielinski, office manager at Finchum Sports Floors, said it can be hard for her to find employees, even though candidates don’t necessarily need experience because the company can provide training.

She said candidates need to have a valid driver’s license, pass a background and fingerprint check and a drug test.

Zielinski said most of the work her company does is at schools, so a clean background is a must.

Murray said more employers might start hiring people with a non-violent criminal history so the candidate field opens up.

Several job seekers at the event said they’ve been applying for work online, but the job fair was a great opportunity to show employers who they are off-paper.

Meeting the employers in person also meant their application wasn’t floating around online and will actually be looked at.

“(I’ve applied) mostly on the internet, and there wasn’t too much on there that I can qualify for. So, coming today to a real job fair, they had companies here, there’s several places I might be able to fit in,” Audrey West said.

West has a unique issue compared to the average job seeker.

At 74, West said Social Security doesn’t pay all of the bills anymore.

“A lot of people look at me and they say, how old are you,” West said.

Other job seekers, such as Raejon Timmons, said she needs good pay and benefits.

“I’m looking for something that is full time, where I can get 40 hours a week. I want benefits, insurance,” Timmons said.

She has 18 years of experience in customer service.

Murray said even though companies are in need of more employees, they aren’t offering better pay to compete.

“You would think with unemployment rates this low, with employers having difficulties finding workers, that they would be bidding wages up to attract them. But we’re not seeing that in any significant way,” Murray said.

He also said many economists think the economy will slow down very soon because of the labor market and employers having a hard time finding qualified candidates.

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