About 2,000 people in search of work braved icy roads Tuesday, Dec. 28, to come to the annual Homecoming Job Fair at the Biltmore Square Mall in Asheville. They were greeted by approximately 86 local employers looking to fill an estimated 1,800 jobs over the next few months, according to Rick Elingburg, manager at the North Carolina Security Commission.
The job openings are a sign that the economy is on the rebound, Elingburg suggested.
“The sense is that locally, in the Asheville, Buncombe, and Henderson areas, the economy is getting better,” said Elingburg, citing statistics that show unemployment in the area is hovering at 7.2 percent compared to 9.8 percent state-wide.
“There are a lot of employers here looking to fill jobs, where last year they were looking just to make a showing — being here as a moral boast — but they weren’t really hiring,” explained Ellie Waters, a counselor at the JobLink Career Center.
Businesses at the fair included about 25 manufacturers, as well as a number of banks, call centers and health care providers. Elingburg estimated that the open positions being advertised at the fair paid an average of $12 to $14 per hour.
“That’s somewhat typical of our area,” he explained. “We don’t have a lot of technical or higher management positions readily available. That’s one thing we continue to work on: bringing more businesses to the area that would hopefully bring more of the upper management kind of jobs. But unless you’ve got their headquarters, offices, more regional offices or something here, then you’re not typically going to get those kinds of jobs.”
Photos by Jonathan Welch