A recent article in the Columbus Ledger Enquirer states that the unemployment rate in Columbus, GA has risen from 9.4% in July of 2010 to 9.7% in August of 2010. That equates to roughly 12,319 people out of work in the Columbus area. I am currently one of those people. My family and I moved to Columbus back in August after my overly paranoid employer in Pennsylvania kicked us to the curb following a year of loyal service to them. We began looking for work as soon as our plane touched down on Georgian soil. In fact, we began sending resumes out weeks before we even left Pennsylvania. After two months of searching we still haven’t landed a job here.
In an interview State Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond stated, “At the end of the day, if you’re unemployed it’s hard to find a job right now.” Mr. Thurmond goes on to forecast an employment boom in the wake of the Kia Motors plant and the continuing growth at Fort Benning, but our recent job hunting experience tells another story altogether.
Columbus has buttoned down the employment hatches so tight that it has become near to impossible for average people to find work in the area. Maybe it is because of Phenix City’s scarred reputation bearing down on Columbus from across the Chattahoochee River or maybe it is because of the explosion of reverse racism running rampant through the city. Who knows? What is evident is that Columbus area businesses have begun to press candidates hard enough to weed out nearly ten percent of their work force. Most reputable businesses conduct drug screens and criminal background checks as a condition of pre-employment. Some will even check your credit history while others will want a copy of your DMV records. The nature of the information is usually contingent upon the type of work that you are applying for, but Columbus employers are running a full list of screens regardless of the position.
Companies are demanding ten years of addresses and phone numbers, a full criminal background check, and credit and work history. In addition, they are demanding that you give them permission to drill all of your former employers and all of your references. If you are lucky enough to make it through all of that, you then move on to the employer’s specific testing requirements. This battery of unreasonable tests is enough to deter even the best of potential candidates. You will be tested for math skills, mechanical aptitude, typing speed, comprehension and deductive reasoning, none of which are requirements for any of the jobs that these employers are offering.
Of course, all of this is dependent upon the fact that you can even get a resume into the company to begin with. Columbus area businesses are refusing to take applications and resumes on site now. Instead, you are instructed to visit their websites to fill out an electronic resume, which you can’t do because they don’t exist. All you will find on their sites are short lists of jobs that require qualifications that most average workers simply do not possess. The qualifications include four year degrees and four years of experience in a particular field, perfect credit, a spotless background, and very little past history. We’re not talking about professional career positions here; these are lower level restaurant and labor positions here. Why in God’s name would anyone with those qualifications want to work in a pizzeria?
Larger industries like Dolly Madison and Cott Beverages are sending candidates to the Georgia Department of Labor to apply to their companies, who won’t allow you to just apply to a specific company. Like the websites, you have to search their job database and hope that you find something that you qualify for. Of course this is after you register with the GDL — a process that takes about two hours to complete with an additional hour waiting in line to use one of their outdated Windows 2000 computers. Then you’re left to pick through a narrow list of jobs that, again, most average workers are not going to qualify for. If you do happen to qualify for a job posting, you then have to wait yet another hour just to be handed a sheet of paper that describes the nature of the job and refers you to an address where you can go and apply for it.
So “at the end of the day” the unemployment rate in Columbus, GA is due to employers who have raised the employment standards too high for most workers to reach. Good job Columbus. Let’s see you pull yourself out of this one!