Job fair in Salem attracts hundreds looking for work
SALEM — Having spent nearly three decades managing the catalog and credit departments at the local J.C. Penney store, Michael Twomey never thought he'd be pounding the pavement in search of employment.
But when the company was forced to downsize last year, Twomey, like countless others, found himself out of work and out of luck.
"It's a pretty tight situation right now," said the Derry resident, who once oversaw a staff of 135 employees. "At this point, I'd take anything connected with customer service. That's what I've been doing all these years."
Twomey was among the several hundred area job seekers attending Tuesday morning's job fair at Mount Washington College in Salem.
Sponsored by the NH Department of Employment Security, the event matched potential employees with representatives from 48 employers and community partners, running the full gamut of fields and industries, including various educational opportunities.
An hour after the fair began, 150 job hunters had already passed through the doors, and parking spaces were scarce outside the school, despite the pouring rain.
Ryan Jenson, the school's executive director, said he was pleased that the new college, housed in the buildings that were once Hesser College, was able to work closely with state Labor Commissioner George Copadis, along with other state employment officials.
Paul Hatch, a spokesman for NH Employment Security, said the goal is to host regular job fairs around the Granite State, which have already proven quite popular with job seekers. Twenty job fairs were scheduled for the year.
A fair in Manchester last month drew 800 people. Another fair will be held at the town offices in Littleton on Thursday, followed by an Aug. 8 fair at the National Guard Armory in Nashua.
According to Copadis, the state unemployment rates are showing steady drops, though he said unemployment rates in the southern part of the state do tend to run slightly higher than state average, as the area is more densely populated.
Overall, New Hampshire has a 5.2 percent unemployment rate — about 0.1 percent less than the previous month, according to Copadis.
"There are a lot of good jobs out there, and employers are hiring," he said. "Having events like this one truly benefits both the employers and the job seekers."
"We have quite a diverse group of employers here today, and we're encouraging everyone to meet everyone," Jensen added. "This is the perfect opportunity for people to network, to ask questions."
Kristin Dube, lead admissions counselor for the Job Corps program, said jobs are still particularly hard to come by for younger workers, leading more to considering a stint in the Corps.
The program helps young people between the ages of 16 to 24 build their resumes by helping them meet their own personal, professional goals while earning academic credits.
A decade ago, Dube said it was mostly the younger teens that expressed interest in the program, but nowadays things have changed a bit.
"I'm seeing a lot of 20-year-olds coming in now," she said. "They're competing in a job market that's already pretty tough right now."
Salem job seeker Paula Quigley agreed with that last sentiment.
In May, Quigley was laid off from her paralegal job when the firm she'd been working with for several years was downsized.
With fall fast approaching, Quigley said she decided to come to the fair and get more serious about her job hunt.
"I'm putting my feelers out right now," she said.