Thousands of positions available for jobless Utahns

Published: Wednesday, April 11 2012 6:02 p.m. MDT

Dental assistant Stephanie Manzano takes X-rays on patient Zach Jeppsen at Monarch Dental in Bountiful Wednesday, April 11, 2012.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Need a job? Employers are looking for you.

On Wednesday there were more than 3,600 jobs posted on KSL.com. The Utah Department of Workforce Services, which also maintains a job board for the state, had more than 18,000 postings.

Nationally, the unemployment rate dropped from 8.3 percent in February to 8.2 percent, according to a jobs report released last week. Utah's rate in February was 5.7 percent.

Simply stated: "We're doing much better," Curt Stewart, spokesman for the department, said.

While Utah's rate is low, it still represents more than 76,000 people out of work, Stewart said. And those currently looking for work will be joined in a few weeks by high school and college graduates looking to enter the workforce.

But what about all those jobs?

"There's a lot of competition for those positions," Mark Knold, chief economist for the UDWS, said. "You just have to keep at it."

He said the total number of jobs in the state has steadily increased and is better today than it was a year ago.

Among the listings on KSL.com, the most common positions were in health care, office management, transportation and sales. Warehouse jobs and industrial jobs, including for electricians, are also listed.

Construction employment increased by 5 percent statewide over the past year, according to information released Tuesday by the Associated General Contractors of America. That group also ranked the Ogden-Clearfield metropolitan area as eighth in the nation for job growth in construction.

Among the job postings was one for an executive assistant at OnSite Care. Director of operations Becky Rain said she received more than 30 resumes in the first day the position was put online.

"I've gotten tons," she said. "It's taking off like wildfire."

Rain said OnSite Care, which partners with large employers to provide primary care at the workplace, wants to fill two positions, both of which are new jobs created within the past 6 months.

Justin Holt, owner of West Point Eye Center, said applications for a receptionist and optician position had poured in essentially overnight. He said he was more concerned with an applicant's personality than their background and qualifications.

"You can't teach someone to be warm, bubbly and friendly," Holt said. "You can teach the skills. I'm not teaching brain surgery."

Kevin French, plant manager for Engineered Wall Systems, said he was looking to fill up to five entry-level warehouse positions. Like Holt, he said qualifications weren't a major concern because the company does a lot of in-house training for employees. The only stipulation, he said, was that an applicant have a good work ethic and be deemed eligible by E-verify.

The health care industry has weathered the storm of the recession better than other private sectors. On Utah job boards there are many postings for pharmacists or nursing and dental assistants, but many of those positions require some form of certification.

Cathy Turnbow, lead dental assisting instructor at the Davis Applied Technology College, said she has seen a job placement of 92 percent in her 60-student program. Often, she said, dentists are waiting for students to finish the program.

"I have dentists calling me all the time," she said.

Utah doesn't require certification for dental assistants, she said, and some dentists are willing to train assistants themselves. However, she said the one-year program to receive a certification makes it easier to find employment out of state and can be an asset in advancing a career.

Deven Pettit, owner of Cascade Springs Hospice, is currently looking to fill two to three full-time nursing assistant positions. The jobs are for a start-up hospice branch, he said, and experience is key. 

"Mostly I'm looking for skilled, licensed individuals," he said.

Knold said that total job growth in Utah is at 2.5 percent per year. That number, he said, is above the national job growth of 1.6 percent but lower than what the state would like to see, especially with 20,000 people entering the workforce each year.

The economy is improving and Utah is in better shape than many parts of the country, but the numbers can often give a wrong impression. He said beginning six months ago the Utah unemployment rate dropped from 7.3 percent to 5.7 percent. But in addition to job gains, that drop also reflects discouraged workers who give up on looking for work. Overall job growth, he said, is probably more indicative of the economic progress. 

"The fall in the unemployment rate is overstating the improvement in the labor market," Knold said.

E-mail: benwood@desnews.com

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