EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

April 30, 2014

Unemployed flock to Salem job fair

Unemployment down, but people still flood job fair

By Doug Ireland
direland@eagletribune.com

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SALEM — The Granite State’s economy may be improving, but some local job seekers yesterday weren’t convinced that’s the case.

The state’s unemployment rate dropped from 4.7 to 4.5 percent last month as 2,940 people found jobs, according to the New Hampshire Department of Employment Security.

Nearly 200 people were still seeking employment at the department’s job fair yesterday at Mount Washington College, formerly Hesser College.

Many came with resumes in hand and dressed to impress employers from 43 companies from throughout the state. There were jobs available in everything from retail to financial services.

The job applicants included everyone from recent graduates to experienced, laid-off employees looking to rejoin the workforce.

“It’s been pretty steady traffic,” NHDES program specialist Kevin Myers said. “There’s been a good turnout of job applicants.”

Employers said they were generally pleased with the quality of applicants, fielding questions about their companies and accepting resumes. Many scheduled interviews as well.

But Myers said a steady decline in the jobless rate meant employers wouldn’t have as many prospective workers to chose from as they have in recent years.

“Because of the drop, they are not seeing the same volume of applicants,” he said. “You are seeing more hiring than layoffs.”

New Hampshire’s unemployment rate has gradually decreased from 5.6 percent in March 2013. A similar four-hour job fair held at the college in July drew about 235 people.

There are signs that the job outlook is better than in recent years, but Mike Mendonca, 28, of Salem was skeptical.

“It’s pretty stagnant,” said Mendonca, a 2010 Hesser graduate.

He’s been looking for a job in business administration, but said he was encouraged after getting a chance to meet with prospective employers yesterday.

“Employers were ready to reach out to people,” he said. “A lot of them are looking to hire.”

Adrian Delasio, 21, of Haverhill, Mass., was desperate to find any type of job that would help him provide for his two young children.

“I’m trying to get out of the slump I’m in,” he said. “I’m looking for anything that will get me ahead.”

The employers included large national retailers such as Lowe’s, Home Depot and Macy’s, but also smaller, local companies such as Operon Resource Management of Lowell, which also has facilities in Pelham and Hudson.

Operon, which specializes in placing employees in assembly, manufacturing and service positions, was looking to find 15 to 20 employees, according to senior on-site manager Luz Borgos-Ortiz.

Finding a job has been tough for older workers such as Fred Stefaniak, 58, of Salem, a logistics specialist. He’s been out of work for four years.

“I’m trying to get some information and some ideas, and to see what’s out there,” Stefaniak said. “I’m finding it a little tougher than I thought.”

Approximately 35 Mount Washington College students were among those seeking jobs, according to Heather Lalla, the college’s career services director.

The average age of the students — most of whom have returned to school after years in the workforce — is 35 to 40, she said.

“It’s a great networking opportunity for them,” Lalla said.

It was also a great opportunity for employers to potentially meet dozens of job applicants.

“We’re always looking for extra ways to recruit people,” Burgos-Ortiz said.

The Department of Employment Security has several other job fairs scheduled in the next month. Those fairs are May 6 in Seabrook, May 14 in Conway and May 29 in Nashua.