FARGO (AP) - Workers who have been laid off are facing the project of lower paychecks if they do find a job. And the search is becoming more difficult.
Job openings at the Job Service North Dakota center in Fargo fell from 2,400 on Jan. 1 to 1,936 late last week, a decrease of 19.3 percent. Claims for unemployment checks at the Fargo center are more than double the number a year ago.
Last week, the job center logged 2,190 visits, compared to an average of 1,300 to 1,400 last summer.
''What we have is higher competition for those jobs out there,'' says John Funk, an area manager for Spherion in Fargo-Moorhead and Bismarck-Mandan. ''It's the supply-and-demand game.''
Marty Aas, manager of the Job Service North Dakota center in Fargo, said a lower paycheck is one reality of a softer job market.
Job counselors say many employers are cautious about hiring because of the economic uncertainty, and some turn to part-time workers.
Unemployment in Fargo-Moorhead as of December, the most recent figure available, was 3.4 percent. It compared with 2.7 percent in November but was just slightly above the 3.3 percent rate in January 2008, reflecting the seasonal falloff in work.
North Dakota's jobless rate in January was 3.5 percent, well below Minnesota's 6.9 percent and the 7.3 percent national rate.
Patti Kordovsky, 48, is one of more than 4,000 unemployed workers in Fargo-Moorhead. She was told Jan. 19, that she had lost her job at a hearing aid sales center and was given two weeks' severance pay. After withholding, she pocketed about $500.
After more than 20 years of working, mostly in office management and sales support, Kordovsky was earning $12.25 an hour with benefits. Most of the openings she has found are for jobs that pay $9 to $10 an hour. She has applied for about 25 jobs, and is still waiting for the phone to ring.
''As far as the job market out there, it's kind of gloomy,'' Kordovsky said. Given the area's strong college presence, she sometimes feels as if she's suddenly in competition with a flood of 20-somethings entering the job market.
She follows the advice of job counselors by updating her computer skills and being flexible in considering her options. In her spare time, she works on her typing speed.
''It just forces me to look at other opportunities,'' Kordovsky said. ''You just have to bend.''