Career center staying open
Although the Tennessee Department of Labor recently announced it was "restructuring" the career center program and consolidating some county offices, Lenoir City Career Center will still offer Workforce Investment Act and job consulting services through the East Tennessee Human Resources Agency.
Lenoir City Career Center WIA manager Joy Brock said public perception was that the local center was closing up shop.
"I just want to make sure people in this community know that the career center is not closing ...," Brock said.
Thirty-four career centers across the state will be consolidated into regional offices, according to a press release issued by the Department of Labor. The change was necessitated by "budget constraints."
Jeff Hentschel, spokesman with the department, said three employees will be laid off from the Lenoir City office and 125 statewide to help make up for a budget shortfall of about $5 million.
"We couldn't do that with closing certain locations alone," Hentschel said. "It had to be the permanent layoffs of some of our employees."
He said cutting the jobs was a "tough part" of the budgetary process for the department. The layoffs take effect June 18.
"It really is a business decision," Hentschel said. "In order to be sustainable, we have to make those tough decisions laying off our employees and relying on technology."
Career centers assist people in finding jobs and linking up potential employees with industries. Services previously offered in Lenoir City will be moved to the Alcoa office, located at 366 Glascock St., Suite 120.
"Hopefully, in many of these centers that are slated to have our employees removed, they can continue those services in those locations just by using the self-service function of (our) website, or they'll have to go to an alternate location," Hentschel said, adding that people can file for unemployment by phone or on the Department of Labor's website at https://ui.tn.gov.
"It's a misconception that these centers are where people file for unemployment," Hentschel said. "That is done over the phone and online except in Shelby County specifically, and that's going to be ending in June as well, so people will still be able to do that in the convenience of their home or at the library or wherever they can have computer access."
The state unemployment rate has seen modest increases in the last three months, inching up a tenth of a point in each month.
"Statistically, that's not significant," Hentschel said. "And in fact, last month we saw the state rate go up a tenth of a percentage point, but we saw most of the counties decrease in their unemployment, and that's because we do seasonal averaging of our state unemployment rate but not of the county numbers."
In Loudon, the jobless rate increased from 6.9 in February to 7.0 in March. Meigs showed one of the highest unemployment rates among surrounding counties with a percentage hovering around 10. Scott County, located just north of Oak Ridge, had the highest unemployment in the state at 17.5 percent.
Hentschel said the Department of Labor has seen some employment gains, particularly in construction, real estate and transportation across the state.
"This is a strange time of year in that when the weather gets warmer you see increases in areas like construction and tourism, but then the flip side is the schools will be out soon, so you'll see some dips in education and areas like that," he said. "But overall statewide we've seen kind of a stagnation. We've seen a hold in growth."
In addition to the workforce investment program, the Lenoir City Career Center will also continue offering adult education services. For more information, call 865-986-5506. The center is open 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday.
"I can tell you that the WIA program is still here in the career center, and adult education is still open in the career center," Brock said. "... The career center is not closing."