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NE Wisconsinites flock to area job fairs as state's unemployment claims increase, opposite of U.S.

Posted at 8:13 PM, Apr 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-22 21:19:43-04

OSHKOSH, Wis. (NBC 26) -- One Appleton father and his son are on a mission.

"We're both looking for jobs," Robert Miller said.

And in Northeast Wisconsin, they're not alone.

"The checks that we got from Biden were great, but they're not gonna last forever," Miller said. "Everybody needs a job."

The Oshkosh Chamber of Commerce hosted a drive-thru job fair on Thursday for nearly 200 job seekers. Though the U.S. Department of Labor reports improving unemployment nationwide, Miller and others are still on the hunt for work.

"I worked as a self-employed contractor and I need to work at a regular job so that they match the social security contributions," Miller said. "I'm telling you, it's not easy for older people."

Miller says the pandemic has changed the way he searches for work. And not to his benefit.

"The normal process of going in and meeting people's been all screwed up," the job hunter said. "Everything's been screwed up by the pandemic."

Fair organizers say Northeast Wisconsin employers have had just as much trouble hiring new faces since last April, when nearly 300,000 Wisconsinites filed for unemployment.

"The unemployment really spiked high in April and it continued to go down," Bobbi Miller of the Fox Valley Workforce Development Board said. "By last fall, we were approaching full employment again... We've had companies that are just crying for more employees."

That's why area chambers of commerce are working to connect employer and employee.

"This is an example of all of us working together to be able to support our local employers and provide opportunities for our local job seekers," Patti Andresen-Shew of the Oshkosh Chamber said.

So those like Miller are happy to find a new gig just by sitting in the car.

"If you're lucky, you find a place that you enjoy working and you got people you like to work with," Robert Miller said.

Andresen-Shew says nearly 100 job fair packets are still available for members of the community.

In the Badger State, unemployment is increasing. For March, Wisconsin had the lowest unemployment rate of any neighboring state, except for Iowa. And the unemployment claims numbers are well off the pandemic peaks.

For the week ending April 10, there were more than 16,000 initial unemployment applications filed and 92,000 total claims. The most recent week, 18,000 initial unemployment applications were filed, and 94,000 total weekly claims.

If you missed Thursday's job fair, there are resources out there to help.

The Fox Valley Job Center in Menasha is back open for in-person appointments. You can also search for thousands of jobs through the Job Center of Wisconsin.