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Decatur Job Fair Aims to Reduce High Unemployment Rate

Macon County ranks fourth in the state for the highest unemployment rate. In response, the community hosted a job fair Wednesday with 44 employers, ready to hire.

Of the companies looking to hire at the job fair, several were looking for laborers, some openings were in the medical field, and there were even openings with several state agencies such as the Department of Datural Resources and IDOT.

Even though there is openings, there is also literally thousands of workers in Macon county competing for those jobs.

More than three hundred of those Macon county job seekers showed up to the job fair. All of the companies present were looking to fill openings.

Representative Sue Scherer (D)-Decatur, was at the fair and says it's important to connect job seekers with these companies.

"I think there's a disconnect with getting the people through the door and then, we've got 50 employers, finding the right one. I'm just kind of going around finding what jobs people are looking for and trying to hook them up, with 'oh, they're hiring for that try going over there, Scherer said.

Some of the companies were willing to train new hires and many had immediate openings. Several job seekers we spoke with were hopeful that they found a position during the job fair.

"I've got a lot of experience in heavy lifting and stuff like that, and a lot of concrete business work so hopefully I can find something soon," Decatur job seeker William Hirtman said.

There's still some major concerns for the thousands searching for work in Macon county,  such as even though there are openings, there's a lot of people already competing for those openings.

"We've had a lot of the Caterpillar employees coming to see us who've been laid-off," A representative from voestalpine Nortrak Justine Husse said.

Others were concerned starting over in a new field would mean lower pay. Robyn McCoy with Workforce Investment Solutions says another problem job seekers face is they haven't gone through the job search process in so long, they don't know about all the resources available to them to find a new job.

"One of the comments was that they didn't even realize that some of these employers existed. So it's nice that they're here being able to advocate for their company and let the community know they have jobs available," McCoy said.  

Workforce Investment Solutions will be hosting an orientation Thursday for anyone interested in using their services. The organization has federal funding to pay for additional education and training for unemployed workers. The session starts at 9 am at their office on Pershing road in Decatur.

Jobs seem to have been a hot button topic in Illinois, and throughout the nation, for several years now.

A look at the most recent unemployment numbers from here in central Illinois shows the brightest spot is in Bloomington at a 6.1 percent unemployment rate, followed by Springfield at 6.5, Champaign at 6.9, Danville at 9.7 and city of Decatur with the highest unemployment rate at 10.3 percent.