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Hours cut at day-job office

Placement-center manager blames state budget woes

Just as springtime yard work and seasonal day jobs are blossoming, the state is cutting back the operating hours of the office that hooks up the labor and the laborer.

The state Temporary Placement Office on 2900 South and 900 West will cut its hours by half starting March 31, in part to help offset budget cuts in the state Department of Workforce Services by the Legislature.

"It's opposite of what you'd think we'd be doing this time of year, but I don't have control over the budget," said Mike Asmussen, case manager at the office. Instead of seeing job applicants from 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, workers will be limited to signing up from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. weekdays.

People will be able to contact Asmussen by phone at the downtown office in the afternoons at 524-9006.

"It's going to hinder our ability to help people who are looking and employers at least until people hear about the change and get used to the new schedule," Asmussen said.

The heaviest use is in the early morning as workers line up for a chance to get one of the too few jobs that are often disbursed through a kind of lottery system. After about 10 a.m., activity drops off dramatically, according to a department spokesman.

The office could easily operate even longer hours, says a group of people who regularly go to the office for work.

In a letter to Raylene Ireland, the department's executive director, the group claims if more employers knew that there was a state day labor facility where they could obtain workers for one or two days, without jumping through all the hoops that temporary agencies require, the office would have more work than it could handle.

The agency has about 800 homes and businesses that regularly use labor screened by the placement office. From July 1 to now, about 1,600 jobs have come through the office, and about 3,400 people have been placed.

If getting the most for state money spent is the object, the office could better utilize its hours of operation if other services provided by DWS were offered there, according to the letter. If it were equipped with computers, for example, people could log on to while they waited for an employer for the day. If they did not have a job by 2 or 3 p.m., workers could take a referral and look into possible long-term jobs.

"We don't think we're diminishing the services, and we're actually looking to locate a new temporary services office near The Gateway," said Curt Stewart, DWS spokesman. "All of the computerized services to locate longer-term or full-time jobs are available through employment counselors at offices everywhere."

The temporary job office housed in The Road Home shelter on 200 South and Rio Grande will continue to operate, Stewart said.

"We just couldn't justify the expenditure any longer at 29th," he said. "After 10, employers just weren't showing up and usage would really drop off. In the afternoon, it's just been really hard to keep open and staffed when there's hardly any usage at all."

Stewart said he disagrees that the office just isn't well known, noting that there are hundreds of employers who have been with the department for years.