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Spirits of unemployed lifted by prospects at Job & Career Expo (VIDEO)

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WATERTOWN — Nancy J. Raymond, who has been jobless for three months, left the Bruce M. Wright Memorial Conference Center on Thursday feeling upbeat.

“I filled out almost a dozen applications for jobs I was interested in,” said the 52-year-old city resident, who was among more than 1,000 people who attended the annual Job & Career Expo hosted by the Greater Watertown-North Country Chamber of Commerce. One hundred employers attended the show this year, up from last year’s 65.

Unemployed people who applied for jobs at the expo said finding work has been challenging in Jefferson County, which had the third highest unemployment rate statewide in February at 10.5 percent. Ms. Raymond said she is aware that there is plenty of competition for jobs, but she is optimistic that employers will respond.

“I was looking for manufacturing, retail or cleaning jobs,” she said.

Chaumont resident Frederick N. Peebles, 44, has been unemployed for about a year. The construction worker has been employed part-time by contractors for seasonal projects, but he is looking for a full-time job with reliable hours.

“I don’t know what’s here yet, but I will apply for anything I’m capable of doing,” said Mr. Peebles, who had just arrived Thursday at the center. “Part-time jobs aren’t paying the bills.”

City resident Neil J. Fawdrey, 59, has been jobless since September. Most recently, the construction worker did masonry work at the Preserve at Autumn Ridge townhouse complex off County Route 202 for about two years. But he decided to stop doing that work after it took a toll on his health.

“It’s too demanding for me physically, but probably 25 to 30 years ago it wouldn’t have been a problem,” he said.

Mr. Fawdrey said he found applications for six positions for which his experience qualified him, mainly in the construction industry. Though he is upbeat about his chances, he said the vast pool of applicants at the fair was evidence that getting hired could be a challenge.

“There are people that need work here, but then there are other people looking for applications that already have work,” he said. “You can’t hate on that, if someone needs a better job. But it makes it more competitive” for unemployed people.

Seated across from Mr. Fawdrey at a table, filling out applications, was Rhonda M. Jones of Carthage. Ms. Jones has been unemployed since Feb. 15, when she was among five full-time housekeepers laid off at Carthage Area Hospital.

Ms. Jones, who has collected unemployment benefits for 10 weeks, said she is hopeful that she will find work before her benefits expire after 26 weeks. She applied for housekeeping positions Thursday at the Fairfield Inn, Candlewood Suites, Holiday Inn Express and Hilton Garden Inn.

“I’m pretty confident because I’ve worked six years housekeeping,” she said. “I hope I get a phone call before my 26 weeks are up.”

Military reservist Stalin C. Procope, 38, has been looking for work since January, when he ended his active-duty career at Fort Drum. He said he believes his 15 years of experience in the logistics sector of the military will make him marketable to employers.

“I really want to do what I was doing in the military, but I’m looking for anything I can get and am willing to change my career,” Mr. Procope said. “I wouldn’t say I have too much of an edge, but I do have experience that puts me on a playing field with everyone who is going for the same jobs.”

Stephanie A. Ryan, 27, applied for jobs in the food service and retail industries Thursday. Ms. Ryan, who is six weeks pregnant, said she needs to step down from her job as a housekeeper at the Hilton Garden Inn because the position involves heavy lifting for which pregnant women are not qualified. She turned in applications for jobs at Dunkin’ Donuts and Stewart’s Shops.

“I’m just trying to fill out applications and see where it leads,” she said.

Dustin L. Bourquin, 28, Watertown, has been diligently applying for jobs every week since he became unemployed in December. He said he hopes his versatile experience in sales and manufacturing will catch the eye of employers.

“I’m just hoping to catch a break,” he said. “Obviously, it’s very stressful to get out there and apply for jobs five to six times a week.”

Expo sponsors were Barrett Paving Materials, LUK Properties and Penski Inc.

Video from the job fair can be viewed at http://wdt.me/job-fair.


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