job fair

Sarah Johnson (right) greets a job seeker at Timbrook Library last week.

Dozens attended a job fair hosted at Timbrook Library last week.

Virginia Career Works (VCW) partnered with Campbell County Economic Development to host the event on September 9.

“This is our way of trying to partner with Virginia Career Works and to offer something to help people be able to find a job a little bit easier and connect them with employers,” Sarah Johnson, an economic development specialist who helped staff the event for Campbell County, said.

The most recently available data show unemployment numbers in the Lynchburg area are on the rise.

“After dropping steadily during the spring and summer, the number of people filing claims for unemployment insurance in the greater Lynchburg area climbed to 1,746 during the week of August 28,” reads a statement issued by VCW prior to last week’s job fair. “The most recent figure, released last week by the Virginia Employment Commission, was the highest weekly unemployment number recorded since the week of March 6, 2021 in the Lynchburg workforce development area, which includes the city of Lynchburg and the counties of Amherst, Appomattox, Bedford, and Campbell counties. This increase comes after the number of weekly unemployment claims in the Lynchburg region dropped to a low of 879 during the week of July 31.”

Banker Steel, C&C Piping and Fabrication, Concentrix, Foster Fuels, Georgia Pacific and Rage Plastics staffed tents at the fair. Johnson estimated shortly before the job fair ended at 1 p.m. that nearly 30 individuals had shown up. Campbell County Economic Development and Virginia Career Works also hosted a job fair in Brookneal in May.

“We want to try to reach as many as we can,” Johnson said. “Campbell County is a big county.”

Tim Saunders, business engagement and outreach coordinator for the Central Virginia Planning District Commission (CVPDC), emphasized the scale of in-county need for employees while at the job fair.

“Even if every single person that was collecting unemployment got a job today, it still wouldn’t fill all the openings that we have in the community,” Saunders said. “I mean there’s just that many opportunities.”

Saunders said he has spoken to county residents who are unable to work because of reasons unrelated to the pandemic, such as a lack or reliable transportation, or needing to take care of a family member. He said he has also talked to some who still feel uneasy about working because of the pandemic, but said he does not think this group represents a majority of unemployed people in Campbell County.

An average of 45 new COVID-19 cases were reported daily in Campbell County last week. That number has been rising steadily in August, according to Virginia Department of Health (VDH) data. New cases by day reached peaks of roughly 55 earlier this Summer, and 77 in January. New cases per day dropped to single digits for much of the summer before slowly starting to rise again.

According to VDH, the Delta variant of COVID-19 is by far the most common variant in Virginia and throughout the United States. When asked if the spread of the Delta variant is related to current unemployment numbers, Saunders said he didn’t have data to prove such a relationship, but conceded that it might exist.

“I'd say that just given the timing, there's probably some relationship between the rise in cases and the fact that we're now seeing higher unemployment claims,” he said.

It is unclear at this time how the cutoff of several unemployment benefit programs on September 4, which were made possible by the CARES Act and other legislation, will affect local unemployment numbers and the labor market.