Columbus Unemployed Cautiously Optimistic

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One day after President Obama touted a roaring stock market and a growing economy, WOSU visited a Columbus job fair to find out how the unemployed are feeling about securing a steady paycheck.

It’s right around lunchtime and the Aladdin Shrine Temple on Stelzer Road is teeming with people toting brief cases and business binders filled with resumes and business cards. Men and women of all ages with different levels of experience and education are filling out applications and talking with potential employers. Nicole Lehmann is an upbeat 22-year-old who’s hoping to get a job in human resources. Lehmann graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in psychology from Capital University last May and is currently in graduate school. But she still needs a paycheck.

“I was looking for something that wasn’t sales (laughter) because that’s what’s I’ve always done. So, just something working with people, more of a career, more like 9 to 5, no odd hours,” she said.

But like many people out of work, Lehmann may have to take what she can get. For Michael Pritsel that means moving.

“I had to leave the state of Ohio. I’ve lived in Westerville for 41 years. I hate to, my parents don’t want to see me go, but I gotta go where I gotta go. And it’s just, my kids are getting tired of Dad not working, and not having enough to do what we need to do,” he said.

Pritsel, who’s 41 years old, was laid off 18 months ago. Even though he’s moving to Tennessee to take a job as a fire chief this summer he still needs work to make ends meet in the meantime. Pritsel said trying to find a job has been a living hell and he wonders a little if his age has kept him from being hired.

“Get an interview and then they fill a position or they’re not hiring for that position anymore. Or they decide they’re not going to do anything else, they’ve put a hiring freeze on. That’s why I’m planning on moving,” Pritsel said. Despite being laid off, the people interviewed, for the most part, had a positive attitude about looking for work even if their outlook on getting a job was less optimistic. Anthony Gay is 22-years-old. He was laid off in November from a call center, but he said he has experience in customer service and sales.

“Sometimes to me it’s mostly hard at the end of the year trying to find a job because most jobs are filled and looking to be filled by then. But, you know, now it’s January and I feel like there’s more opportunities now, jobs are opening for us. And I’m out here trying to get a job. Any interviews yet? No, but I have had strong leads. I’ve had people say they’re going to call me back by tomorrow so I’ll wait until then and see what’s going to happen,” Gay said.

Between Lehmann, Pritsel and Gay, 48-year-old Cathie Price has been out of work the least amount of time: one month. Price said she’s moving back to the Columbus area from Virginia. The last three weeks, she said, have been hectic with numerous job fairs and two interviews…with no call backs.

“I’m optimistic. I’m always positive. You know, waiting for something better. Didn’t get that something better’s going to come along,” Price said. Eleven-hundred people were expected to attend the job fair on Stelzer Road. Ohio’s unemployment is higher than the national average. The Columbus-area has fared slightly better.