Friday, September 26, 2008

Nashville area companies put hold on hirings

By WENDY LEE • Staff Writer • September 26, 2008 Stephen Kulinski of Gresham Smith and Partners in Nashville said he has seen a lot of qualified candidates looking for jobs at his engineering and design firm. The problem is, he isn't in a position to hire them. "We're slowing down hiring," said Kulinski, a senior vice president. "We're just being cautious and not hiring people we don't absolutely need." Many local companies said they aren't planning to hire until the end of this year, making job prospects tighter for the area's 45,650 unemployed workers, the latest head count by state officials taken last month. The unemployment rate in the Nashville metropolitan area stood at 5.7 percent in August, state officials said Thursday. That's a slight improvement from July's revised rate of 5.8 percent here, but sharply higher than the 4 percent unemployment rate of August 2007. The data were part of a county-by-county jobless report issued Thursday afternoon by the state Department of Labor & Workforce Development. "Bottom line is nobody has a magic bullet for the economy right now," said Soumen Ghosh, head of the economics and finance department at Tennessee State University. "As long as the economy is in a downturn, I don't think the unemployment situation will be changing. It may further worsen if the credit market is not leveled off." Nashville-based I.C. Thomasson Associates plans to hire only two or three engineers in the next three months, roughly half the number it added a year ago, said John Wimberly, the company's president. Kulinski said his firm is only hiring people to replace open positions or if it's a strategic hire. "We're not sure what's going on with the economy," he said. "Our clients aren't building buildings." Ghosh said sectors most affected by rising unemployment rates have been the service industry, which includes finance and banking jobs, as well as manufacturing. In Tennessee, Williamson County reported the state's lowest county unemployment rate at 4.7 percent, up from a rate of 4.6 percent in July and 4.2 percent a year ago, according to state unemployment data. Perry County had the state's highest county unemployment rate at 16.2 percent in August, up 7.2 percent from a year ago. Retail employee Bob Jenkins had planned to get married on Oct. 4, but now he has pushed back his wedding because he lost his job. Jenkins said he was told last month he was laid off as RiverGate Mall's marketing director. Jenkins, who said he understands the decision was caused by a weakening retail market, had worked 12 years for the mall's parent company, CBL & Associates Properties, Inc. CBL said it does not discuss personnel issues. "I'm 52 years old. It's going to be hard for me to find a job where I am making the same income because the types of jobs I'm experienced in … are limited in this market," Jenkins said.

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