While state and nationwide unemployment rates are rising, the Stephens County unemployment rate has decreased.

According to figures provided by Duncan Workforce Oklahoma, the Stephens County workforce consists of 20,990 people. Of them, 20,270 people are employed and 720 people are listed as unemployed.

The unemployment rate for the county was 3.4 percent in July, down from May and June, when the rate had been 3.6 percent. In July 2005, the unemployment rate was 3.8 percent.

Fran Bergeron, Duncan Workforce Oklahoma program manager, said, “It’s gone down. We’re doing really well.”

The July unemployment figure was less in Stephens County than the statewide rate, 3.8 percent, and significantly lower than the nation’s 5.0 percent.

Although unemployment has decreased in Stephens County, Bergeron said there was one negative aspect for the employers.

“We have gotten a lot of employers contacting us,” she said. “Honestly, there are a lot of people looking for help (finding employees). But we’re not seeing a lot of people coming in, looking for jobs.”

She said about 100 job orders were on the center’s computer database, and the center has about 20 to 30 people who show up from day to day looking for jobs.

Bergeron said the lack of people looking for jobs at the office was probably because of the increasing convenience of computer technology.

“People can go online and look for a job,” she said. “They don’t even have to leave their homes. Or they can get online at the library. It’s a lot of self-service.”

To help people find jobs or fill open positions, Bergeron said the center does what it can.

For instance, the center offers workshops to help people prepare for what can be expected in a job. If a person needs help waking up in time for the job or getting ready for an interview, the center will work with him or her.

The office also has kiosks set up so people can search for jobs and work with personal assessment programs.

Bergeron said people might not be going to the center because they may be looking for jobs that are different from the jobs available.

Although many fields may have open positions, she said there is one trade on particular need.

“There seems to be a need for welders,” she said. “I keep seeing welding positions coming up.”

In the Stephens County area, several employers are frequently hiring people, Bergeron said.

“I’d say our biggest employers are Halliburton, the banks and hospitals, which are always looking for resident nurses,” she said.

To fill a position, the employer fills out a form, and the center searches through its database to find people who fit the job criteria. The center verifies the open position and notifies the prospective employee of the opening.

Creating a relaxed atmosphere was a big step in helping people find a job, she said.

“When I first got here, it felt like a government building with the chairs lined up,” Bergeron said. “We have an office-like environment with resources for people to use. This isn’t the old unemployment office.”

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