By Doug Ireland
---- — SALEM — The state’s unemployment rate is falling, but that was little consolation for the crowd of job seekers at Mount Washington College yesterday.
The parking lot at the school, formerly Hesser College, was packed with cars much of the day as unemployed workers met with representatives from 48 companies looking to hire.
The job fair, organized by the New Hampshire Department of Employment Security, was a good opportunity for people to meet prospective employers, according to department Commissioner George Copadis.
“It just gives us an opportunity to connect employers and job seekers under the same roof,” he said.
Approximately 235 people — many with resumes in hand and dressed in suits — attended the four-hour job fair. Several rooms at the college were lined with tables staffed by employers and filled with company brochures and job applications.
The 48 companies included large national firms such as BJ’s Wholesale Club and FedEx as well as small, local companies such as Wakefield-Vette in Pelham and All-Bright Systems in Salem.
There were job opportunities available in everything from retail to engineering.
For Tony Jenney, 62, of Windham the job fair was a good opportunity to seek full-time employment as an engineer. He’s worked as an engineering consultant and a part-time tax consultant after his former company closed in 2000.
“I’m a retired engineer, looking to get back into engineering,” Jenney said.
The cost of putting two children through college has been a financial strain, he said.
“It’s been very difficult,” he said.
For Mark Alfano, 56, of Salem, who’s worked in hospital radiology departments as a nuclear technologist, it’s also been a difficult job search.
He worked in health care for more than 20 years, but said he is finding few job opportunities in his highly specialized field. Alfano hoped the job fair would bring him luck.
“Nothing is out there,” Alfano said. “It’s been tough. I’m leaving my options open.”
The job fair also attracted people such as Grant McCarter, 25, of Londonderry. He was looking for his first job after graduating from Fitchburg State University in January with a communications degree.
“It’s difficult to find a job,” he said. “You learn a lot about yourself going through the process.”
Employers said the event was a good way to find and meet a lot of qualified applicants.
Steven Barretto, CEO and manager of All-Bright Systems in Salem, was only seeking a single part-time office employee. But there was a lot of interest from people who wanted to fill the position.
“I have a folder full of resumes. There are a lot of well-qualified applicants,” he said. “There is nothing like seeing people face to face. You get a better idea of whether they would be a good match.”
Copadis said an improving economy and the state’s job fairs are helping put people back to work. A recent job fair in Manchester drew 800 people, he said.
“Hopefully, the economy will continue to improve,” he said.
New Hampshire’s unemployment rate dropped from 5.3 percent in May to 5.2 percent in June. The jobless rate was 5.7 percent a year ago.