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Work search requirement on hold, what does East Texas job market look like for the unemployed?

Workforce Solutions East Texas says layoffs continue, but many companies, including manufacturers, are hiring.

TYLER, Texas — Texans receiving unemployment benefits needed to prove they were searching for work. However, with the spike in coronavirus cases, that requirement remains again on hold.

Texas Workforce Commission Executive Director Ed Serna announced that the work search requirement would remain on hold at least until the end of July. Normally, people who receive unemployment benefits have to prove they are actively seeking a new job or enrolled in a school or training program. That requirement was waived due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Bryan Daniel, chairman of the commission, said during a Tuesday morning meeting that he approved of the decision. “We’re seeing continued claim activity in numbers that would suggest there’s still more to come,” he said. 

Stephen Lynch, area operations director for Workforce Solutions East Texas, agreed.

“What we’re seeing, there are definitely layoffs, and they’re industry-specific,” he explained. “Some in the service industry, oil and gas, seems like those industries are hit the hardest. But there are some companies that are hiring. Some of the manufacturing companies are hiring.”

The Workforce Solutions East Texas website shows nearly 10,000 jobs posted by local companies in the last month. While more people are searching than there are openings, Lynch said the level of competition for each job varies.

“There’s some employers that are really needing people, like, yesterday,” he stated, “and there’s some that are slow and having difficulty.”

This is the first week that Workforce Solutions staff members have been seeing clients in their Tyler office. Of course, everything is spread out and as sanitary as possible. Jobseekers have to make an appointment to visit the center and are allowed one hour 15 minutes before they are asked to leave, and the room and all equipment are sanitized.

“The WorkInTexas job matching system is, a person can access that at home,” Lynch mentioned. “They can use their smartphone or their tablet. But if they don’t have that capability, we’re here.”

Lynch said staff members can seek jobs to improve their resume, search the WorkInTexas.com database, match their skills with available jobs, and more.

He acknowledged that some people will need training so they can land a job in a different field. However, his office has grant funding to pay dozens of people $15 an hour for training in sanitization to help protect companies from COVID-19. There is also money available to pay for online classes through local colleges.

“We have over 42 different career fields, and those that are eligible, it’s a program where we pay tuition, fees, and costs,” he said.

Lynch said the most common question job seekers have at the moment is about whether they could become infected in their new job. “The most common thing that people are looking for is working in a safe environment,” he said. “The number one question, will I be exposed? And there’s no 100 percent protection from this disease if you’re in the workforce. So, what you have to decide on is the level of tolerance that you can be exposed to it.

“There’s a shift there, so, on the side of safety, the job market has moved to where some of these positions are safe and working at home, and as demanding as working if you were in a brick-and-mortar building."