Despite Job Woes, Help Wanted in Houston

We've all heard about the recent economic woes, thousands of job losses in major corporations nearly every day. But there is still some good news, especially for job hunters here in Houston. Jack Williams reports.

If you just listened to the nightly news, you'd probably think prospects for a new job were pretty slim.

"Some worry that a merger could mean thousands of job losses and plant closings."

"Employers cut 240,000 workers from their payrolls last month."

"533,000 jobs lost in November alone."

But here in Houston, that gloomy outlook may not be quite as accurate.

"Houston, the energy industry, while it's got its moments here and there, is still doing well. The health-care industry, while it has its moments, is still doing well, and those are such big parts of our economy. We're a very diverse economy in Houston too. We're not just one big industry like some areas are."

Jamie Belinne is the assistant dean at the University of Houston's Bauer College of Business. She helps recent graduates and former students find jobs. She says she's seen only a slight decline in placements despite massive job losses all across the country.

"It's the time to be performing well at work. This is the time when you want to make sure you can demonstrate that you're adding to the bottom line. But if you're out there doing a job search, there are jobs to be found. Companies are still having a hard time filling positions. I get a lot of calls from people saying they just can't find the right person and if you're willing to get a few extra skills, maybe do some additional training to add some skills to your toolbox, there are jobs to be had."

At The Methodist Hospital System, the hiring sign is not only up, it's flashing brightly. With four hospitals in Houston and another one on the way, the system is hiring 400 people. Most of those jobs require some sort of professional license and many are only part time, but the system's vice-president of human resources, Lauren Rykert says there's still a lot of interest.

"I looked at some statistics recently, and just for the month of January when I compare to last year in January, we've seen about a 75-percent increase in the amount of applicant activity we've had, or people interested in expressing their interest in Methodist openings."

Rykert says job seekers shouldn't get discouraged about their prospects for employment, but should still be ready to change strategy if they need to.

"You need to think about what your long-range plans are. In the short-term, I would advise people to think about flexible options, looking for part-time or as-needed type openings. It's an opportunity to get your foot in the door of an organization, show what you can do and then eventually that might lead to some other opportunities within that organization."

Jim Hertlein is the managing director of Boyden, an executive search firm here in Houston. He seen about a 25-percent reduction in placements, but says there are still many high-paying jobs out there.

"I think we've gone through a period of inactivity as companies were unsure which direction the market was going to go or they were unsure whether they wanted to proceed with certain positions. I think that's still a factor in a number of organizations today, but there is activity and there are still opportunities being filled."

Hertlein says the Boyden branch here in Houston has fared much better than other branches across the country, mostly because of Houston's resilient economy.

Bio photo of Jack Williams

Jack Williams

Director of News Programming

News Director Jack Williams has been with Houston Public Radio since August of 2000. He's also a reporter and anchor for Houston Public Radio's local All Things Considered segments...