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WorkForce Center reports higher demand for services

Diane Peterson, right, a receptionist at the Willmar WorkForce Center, assists a client Thursday with her online job search at the center, located in the Health and Human Services Building north of Willmar. The county is seeing its share of job seekers with the recession in full swing, but nothing like other areas of the state. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

WILLMAR -- Demand for unemployment services may be skyrocketing statewide, but things are a little different locally.

Willmar's branch of the Minnesota WorkForce Center has encountered its share of new job seekers, but nothing in contrast with the rest of the state.

Diane Schulte, as manager with the state Department of Employment and Economic Development, said more people started utilizing the Willmar WorkForce Center in November.

However, "In Kandiyohi County alone, we're not doing bad," Schulte said. "... Sure, we've seen a little increase. But we're geared up and we're ready for it. We're definitely geared up and ready for whatever might hit us."

She said unemployment in Kandiyohi County hasn't in-flated that much si-nce 2007.

According to statistics from the Dep-artment of Employment and Economic Development, Kandiyohi County had an unemployment rate of 5 percent through November.

The unemployment rate for December 2007 was 4.8 percent.

The annual average for 2007 was 4.3 percent.

Of nine west central Minnesota counties, Kandiyohi County has the third lowest unemployment. Lac qui Parle and Yellow Medicine counties hold rates of 4.9 percent and 4.8 percent, respectively. Meeker County has the highest with 6.8 percent.

According to figured released Friday by the The Associated Press, the nation's unemployment rate rose to 7.2 percent in December.

Schulte said most of the those utilizing the WorkForce Center are workers laid-off from the the manufacturing and construction industries. Meanwhile, she said, production workers are in high demand.

An increase in unemployment claims from construction workers isn't unusual for this time of year, Schulte said.

Most who find themselves jobless in the industry are temporarily laid off in the winter because of the weather. However, she said some of those employees this year are reporting that their employers have warned they might not be able to hire them back in the spring.

Schulte said she is cautiously optimistic about Kandiyohi County, but isn't sure what February will bring.

"I anticipate that we're going to see a lot more people (at the WorkForce Center)," Schulte said.

"You have a lot of people that have been employed for the same employer for a long time now and they don't know how to get out there and do what they need to do."

The WorkForce Center plans to hold its third annual job fair Feb. 26 at the Willmar Conference Center, Schulte said, but the center is concerned about how many employers will show up.

"What you probably want to do is come back and visit me next month, toward the end of the month" Schulte said. "I think we'll probably be able to see a little more, to see if we've been affected more."