Business

Whatcom County has grown more jobs than workers. Here's how to get one.

Employees and forklifts move about in the receiving bay area of the new Preferred Freezer Services facility in Richland. Bellingham Cold Storage is hosting a career fair on Friday and Saturday as it plans to hire around 30 forklift operators.
Employees and forklifts move about in the receiving bay area of the new Preferred Freezer Services facility in Richland. Bellingham Cold Storage is hosting a career fair on Friday and Saturday as it plans to hire around 30 forklift operators. The Bellingham Herald file

Spring is usually hiring season in Whatcom County and this year there are plenty of full- and part-time jobs for those looking for work.

Bellingham Cold Storage is hosting job fairs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Roeder Avenue plant. The company is hoping to hire around 30 people for forklift positions. Bellingham Technical College is hosting a couple of career fairs in May, one focused on health and business jobs while the other focuses on culinary careers.

Along with job fairs, local placement agencies are also busy helping companies try and find workers. At the Bellingham office of Express Employment Professionals, they have about 110 jobs that they are trying to fill for other companies. Most of the openings are full-time, permanent jobs, while some are seasonal, said Amanda Zender, a job placement specialist for Express.

Spring is typically a busy time of year for job placement agencies as industries such as construction, agriculture, tourism and manufacturing ramp up. This spring has been busier than the previous two springs, Zender said, adding that it didn't really slow down during the winter months, either.

"For those looking for jobs, it is important to be persistent," Zender said. "Right now there are more jobs than people available."

The "hot jobs" board that Express keeps updated outside its Bellingham office lists a wide range of openings, including cooks, welders, assembly, data entry, sales and office administrators.

Whatcom County is going through a period of strong job growth and it is spread across many industries, said Anneliese Vance-Sherman, a regional labor economist for the state. In the past year Whatcom County has added about 2,500 jobs, which is more than the labor force increase of 1,268 people.

"This points to an increase in the number of jobs that may not be matched by population increases," Vance-Sherman said.

A recent job fair put on by WorkSource Whatcom also points to the trend that employers are having a tough time landing qualified workers. About 50 businesses participated, each with one or more job openings to fill. The event only attracted 100 job seekers, said Gary Smith, regional manager of the Northwest Workforce Council.

WorkSource Whatcom is a partnership of local, state and federal workforce development programs. It helps helps local businesses find job candidates.

"This shortage of available, skilled workers is being felt in many industries and is particularly acute in the construction trades," Smith said. This is an important time for trade jobs as local refineries do turnaround work and major commercial projects are getting started, he said.

Vance-Sherman expects the Whatcom unemployment rate to drop further in April then follow seasonal trends of rising a little in May and June before dropping again later in the summer. She doesn't expect the rate to go much lower than the 4-5 percent range that this area experienced last year.

Dave Gallagher: 360-715-2269, @BhamHeraldBiz
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