Vanessa Mathews was optimistic Wednesday as she filled out a stack of job applications.
“I’m feeling pretty good…I think I’m going to get one,” said Mathews, 18, who was applying at Coldwater Creek, the Coeur d’Alene Resort and Silverwood Theme Park.
Her confidence was fueled by Kootenai County’s record low unemployment. With unemployment rates hovering at 3.5 percent in March, job seekers had the upper hand at the annual North Idaho Job Fair. More than 100 companies were advertising for employees. The event, billed as the largest job fair in county history, outgrew space at North Idaho College and had to be moved to the Kootenai County Fairgrounds.
According to estimates from Idaho’s Commerce & Labor Department, there are currently about 2,000 job openings in the county.
“Everybody’s growing, and we’re all looking for workers,” said Rob Rollins, vice president of Sterling Codifiers Inc. in Coeur d’Alene.
Rollins, formal in a suit and tie, had a pitch ready for prospective job candidates who stopped by his booth. Sterling Codifiers reviews code changes for cities nationwide. He needs five workers with strong research and proofreading skills. The positions pay about $10 per hour.
“We’re looking for people with common sense…and attention to detail,” Rollins said.
Liz Morris, meanwhile, hoped to find candidates for two entry-level lumber grading jobs. Riley Creek Lumber Co. has openings for graders at its North Idaho sawmills, and is willing to train workers. Beginning graders start at $14.50 per hour. It’s a good, career-path job with benefits, said Morris, Riley Creek’s human resources coordinator.
“A lot of manufacturing companies are hiring right now, so the market is tighter than usual,” noted Alicia Ray, Sunshine Minting Co.’s human resource coordinator.
She was advertising for a machinist and an engineer. Other manufacturing firms, including Buck Knives and flexcel,had booths at the fair. Even Halliburton, the Houston-based energy firm, was present, looking for field engineers. Nationally, competition for engineers is so strong that Halliburton has started advertising at community colleges, said recruiter Katie Price. This is the firm’s first year in North Idaho. Price hoped to talk to students from North Idaho College’s two-year engineering program.
At the Black Rock booth, Sue Wirsch, the company’s human resources coordinator, passed out information on summer jobs. Black Rock will hire 160 to 200 seasonal employees this year, including housekeepers, landscapers, bartenders and dishwashers.
With the competition for workers, “you try to get out there earlier,” Wirsch said. In February, she sent out letters to last summer’s employees, asking if they wanted to return for the 2006 season.
Svetlana Oleynik trolled the aisles, looking for openings in health care, or office-type jobs. Oleynik, 18, will graduate from Lakeland High School this spring. She plans to enroll in North Idaho College’s pharmacy program, but she wants to explore other career possibilities by working different fields.
Ryan Ison, 26, hoped the job fair would help him make a career change. He’s an automotive mechanic by training, but recently decided it wasn’t the job for him. Booths full of recruiters handing out applications made him optimistic.
“Today feels pretty good,” Ison said. “I think there’s a lot available.”