Jeffrey Southard, 36, looks over a half-page of job postings Friday at the Colorado Workforce Center of Craig. Southard has been unemployed for about a year and said it’s been tough paying the bills with two kids. Southard is one of the 792 people recently counted as unemployed in Moffat County.

Photo by Brian Smith

Jeffrey Southard, 36, looks over a half-page of job postings Friday at the Colorado Workforce Center of Craig. Southard has been unemployed for about a year and said it’s been tough paying the bills with two kids. Southard is one of the 792 people recently counted as unemployed in Moffat County.

Unemployment heartache felt on both sides of the counter at Craig employment center

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Jeffrey Southard stepped Friday into the Colorado Workforce Center of Craig just before the office closed for lunch.

The 36-year-old Craig man walked to the board to look over the half-page list of job postings.

Taking a pencil from the jar, he scribbled a few notes and shuffled to the counter.

Southard has been out of work for about a year.

He is able to pay bills thanks to odd jobs he picks up here and there. But, he said it’s barely enough to feed his two kids.

Southard handed his note across the counter to Linda Dill, an employment specialist with the workforce center. She handed a handful of job applications back to him.

Southard’s situation isn’t unfamiliar to Dill.

She’s been working at the employment center located at 480 Barclay St., for 15 years and currently sees anywhere from 10 to 30 residents per day coming into the office looking for work.

“This is the worst I’ve seen it since I’ve been here,” she said.

Dill has seen a lot of heartbreak in the last few years, she said.

“This has been their home,” she said. “They grew up here, they’ve lived their whole lives here and you know the bust has just devastated their lives and their savings.

“I have had several people run in here crying — they’ve run out of everything. They don’t know where to turn next. … It is a hard thing for us to help with.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Moffat County had an unemployment rate of 9.5 percent in December 2010, the most recent data available.

There were 792 people without a job in Moffat County in December — the highest unemployment rate in the county since the early 1990s, according to statistics.

“We just try to help them as best as we possibly can,” Dill said. “Whether it’s to get them on a resume or get them steered with a different path or possibly do some computer classes that steers them to look in a different direction.”

Mostly, workforce center staffers recommend trainings and skill development classes for those coming through the doors.

But, the economy got to that, too, Dill said.

“We don’t really have the funding to help them like we used to a few years ago,” she said.

Labor and employment specialist Kelly Pierce agrees the last year has been the worst she has seen in her almost seven years at the workforce center.

She said she sees the same people looking for work day after day, some for a year or more.

“Even sometimes, I feel that they get frustrated and stop coming in and it’s newer faces,” she said. “I think after they’ve looked for a few months they can lose hope sometimes.”

Some days, Pierce said it is hard to come to work.

“When it first started happening and there was such a huge rush with the unemployment stuff, then you really felt it,” she said. “We have gotten used to it.

“We just do the best we can to help everybody. There are times when you just feel for people because there is not anything you can do to help them and they’re kind of at their wit’s end.”

Despite the seemingly endless stream of residents looking for work, Pierce said she still takes pride in her job.

“I like helping people,” she said, noting there is always someone who needs it.

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