By Rebecca Rose
Killeen Daily Herald
On Friday afternoon at Workforce Solutions of Central Texas in Killeen, Alwin Anderson was doing what he does most days of the week - looking for a job.
"It's hard," he said, offering a timid smile as he filled out his third online application in an hour. "It's hard to do this every day."
The unemployed 32-year-old is one of more than 750,000 unemployed Texans still actively seeking employment. A report released Friday by the Texas Workforce Commission showed that number may be shrinking.
In December, the state's unemployment rate fell to 7.8 percent, down from 8.1 percent in November and down from 8.3 percent in December 2010.
In Killeen, unemployed job seekers can look to a few key sectors of the area's job market for signs of hope.
Each weekday, Wendy Ann Damon, career center supervisor at Workforce Solutions, helps people like Anderson in their ongoing job search. The center, located on Cheyenne Drive, provides job seekers free tools, such as access to phones, faxes and the Internet.
Damon said health care, customer service, information technology and government contracting were the top fields with job openings, but one of the biggest challenges to curtailing local unemployment is matching people's skills and experience with the qualifications employers are seeking.
Damon said the difficulty of client placement varies depending on the type of job.
"We have a very large veteran population," she said. "Veterans match up very well with the government contracting jobs because a majority of (them) are looking for (employees) with military experience, such as the equipment, the tools, the lingo."
But for many of the lucrative health care jobs, for which the area has a growing demand, she said there is some disparity.
"Oftentimes, there aren't enough people who have the right education," said Damon. "We might have CNAs, but they want LVNs or RNs."
Customer service jobs tend to be easier to match job seekers with, however. "We have jobs in that field ranging from retail, to call center, to office," she said. "We have lots of people who match up to those positions."
For thousands of unemployed Texans, landing a job means more than being the perfect match on paper. It's a matter of navigating a crowded field of applicants to catch the eye of a swamped human resources worker.
In between waves of construction at Seton Hospital on East Central Texas Expressway, the human resources staff is busy filling slots for a range of positions.
By June, the new hospital plans to hire an additional 300 workers for the opening of the facility, and the facility's staff has been flooded with resumes.
"We're getting lots of them," said Mona Tucker, human resources director for the Harker Heights hospital, adding that the key to standing out is to know how to tell an employer who they are and what they are looking for in a position.
"What story are you telling?" she said. "What are you telling me about you that's going to make me want to know more about you? What is going to get me to call this candidate?"
Don't be afraid to tell an employer about personal accomplishments, she said. Also, job applicants shouldn't make an employer guess what they want from the company, she said.
"What's sad is we get them, and I don't know what they want," said Watson. "If I had anything to teach, it's to let us know what is your passion, and what do you want from this job."
Lastly, Watson said applicants should get assistance with their resume writing. "When you do a resume, have someone else proofread," she advised.
Grammar and spelling errors are among the top reasons candidates get eliminated early. Several recent applicants even misspelled "Seton," an easy mistake to catch for a pair of second eyes, Watson said.
Consider all options
Damon offered more advice for job seekers who may grow weary of the job-hunting process. "If you're not finding something that you want in the field that you want, at the pay that you want, in the location that you want, look at what you can change," she said.
Consider other fields of work and broaden the location of the search.
"You have to keep working at it. Go out. Use the Workforce Center. Network. Talk to people. That's how you get ideas and leads," she said. "Don't give up."
But sitting in a long row of computer work stations, in a crowded room filled with others filling out applications for the same jobs, statistics and helpful hints don't always help alleviate the fears of those like Anderson.
The former Navy sailor, who lives on a small check from his medical retirement, moved to Texas from Seattle in October, armed with a degree in information systems. He thought Fort Hood would be an ideal place to find a job in aviation mechanics or aviation electronics, what he calls his dream job.
But four months later, Anderson has only been on one interview. He said he's been told he should just try to work at a fast food restaurant. "But I have a degree," he said emphatically. "I don't want to have to give up on that."
The toughest part is making it through the application process to an actual interview, he said. "I'm good with people face to face."
Staying focused on his job goals and finding support through family are keys to surviving the discouragement of rejection. "When times get bad, don't lose faith," advised Anderson for others facing a similar position.
"They told me they might have something in the new year," he said of a conversation he had with one potential employer. "They said they think they're going to need more people soon."
For now Anderson keeps his fingers crossed that at least one employer will make good on that speculation.
Contact Rebecca Rose at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7548.
Growing job sectors
Occupation Annual openings
Business and financial operations 145
Food preparation and serving workers 140
Business operations specialists 100
Computer and mathematics 75
Building, grounds cleaning and maintenance 75
Top employment sectors
Education and health services 49,230
Health care and social assistance 24,940
Educational services 24,280
Elementary and secondary schools 20,330
Source: Texas Workforce Commission
Texas jobless rate at lowest point since July 2009
AUSTIN (AP) - The Texas unemployment rate fell to 7.8 percent in December, the lowest it has been in 2½ years, as more than 20,000 nonfarm jobs were added for a second straight month, the state's employment agency said Friday.
The preliminary local jobless rates for December, with revised November numbers in parentheses, were:
Abilene 6.0 (6.2)
Amarillo 4.9 (5.1)
Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos 6.3 (6.6)
Beaumont-Port Arthur 10.1 (10.3)
Brownsville-Harlingen 11.2 (11.4)
College Station-Bryan 5.5 (5.7)
Corpus Christi 6.9 (7.1)
Dallas-Plano-Irving 7.2 (7.5)
El Paso 9.3 (9.5)
Fort Worth-Arlington 7.0 (7.3)
Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown 7.3 (7.5)
Killeen-Temple-Fort Hood 7.7 (7.9)
Laredo 6.9 (7.1)
Longview 5.9 (6.3)
Lubbock 5.3 (5.5)
McAllen-Edinburg-Mission 11.2 (11.1)
Midland 3.9 (4.1)
Odessa 5.0 (5.3)
San Angelo 5.5 (5.7)
San Antonio-New Braunfels 6.8 (7.0)
Sherman-Denison 7.6 (8.0)
Texarkana 6.8 (6.9)
Tyler 7.3 (8.1)
Victoria 6.3 (6.5)
Waco 6.8 (7.0)
Wichita Falls 6.6 (6.8)