Hard Work, Finding Work Part I 

Maine’s unemployment rate rose to nearly 8-percent in January – a sharp increase meaning more and more Mainers are losing their jobs. Adrienne Bennett begins a series of reports called, “Hard Work, Finding Work” as she speaks with the people of Maine who are unemployed, but first she sat down with the State Labor Commissioner to see just how deep this economic slump is and what needs to be done to get out of it.WABI TV5 NEWS Script:A YEAR-AND-A-HALF AGO MAINE’S UNEMPLOYMENT RATE WAS AROUND 4-AND-A-HALF PERCENT.BY JANUARY OF THIS YEAR IT WAS EIGHT PERCENT.TONIGHT WE BEGIN A SERIES OF REPORTS CALLED “HARD WORK, FINDING WORK” TODAY, ADRIENNE BENNETT SPOKE WITH MAINE’S TOP LABOR OFFICIAL, COMMISSIONER LAURA FORTMAN….ADRIENNE JOINS US NOW FROM OUR CENTRAL MAINE BUREAU WITH THE DETAILS OF WHAT SHE HAD TO SAY ABOUT MAINE’S UNEMPLOYMENT SITUATION…I ASKED THE COMMISSIONER JUST HOW BAD THINGS MIGHT GET, AND WHAT’S BEING DONE TO DEAL WITH IT TO TURN THINGS AROUND…”There are estimates that we could get to 10%” AN ESTIMATE OF A 10-PERCENT UNEMPLOYMENT RATE WOULD MEAN MORE THAN 60-THOUSAND MAINERS WITHOUT A JOB…”We have between 30-40 thousand people actually collecting an unemployment check at any moment right now.”IN HER SIX YEARS AS LABOR COMMISSIONER, LAURA FORTMAN HAS NEVER SEEN UNEMPLOYMENT LINES SO LONG, BUT FORTMAN IS OPTIMISTIC THAT FEDERAL MONEY FROM THE RECOVERY ACT COULD GIVE MAINE A BOOST…”The job numbers are a little loose it’s a combination of creation and retention there are estimates of 13 to 15 jobs.”CONSTRUCTION WORKERS WILL LIKELY BENEFIT MOST…WITH SOME MONEY SET ASIDE TO OFFER FREE TRAINING COURSES…”One of the ways we’re trying to be really helpful through the career centers system is by offering osha 10 training and for people who aren’t familiar with that it’s a basic safety and health course that’s pretty much a ticket when you’re looking for construction jobs.” IN MAINE, MORE MEN HAVE BEEN LAID OFF DURING THIS RECESSION…FORTMAN SAYS PARTLY DUE TO THE OCCUPATIONS BEING HIT “Primarily in manufacturing and construction.”WHILE THE HEALTHCARE INDUSTRY HASN’T SEEN A DECLINE, PRESIDENT OBAMA HAS PUT MONEY TOWARD CREATING NEW JOBS IN THAT FIELD…FORTMAN SAYS THE LONG TERM GOAL IS TO LOWER HEALTHCARE COSTS…”Traditionally when we look at healthcare we look at the nursing or radiology technicians what we also need to look at are the IT related fields. The recovery act has resources for updating medical records, data entry opportunities.”FOR THOSE WHO ARE OUT OF WORK WONDERING HOW THEY’RE GOING PAY FOR HEALTH INSURANCE, COBRA IS ONE OPTION – STIMULUS PACKAGE FUNDS MAY BE ABLE TO PICK UP PART OF THE TAB…”which will provide a tax credit for 65% of the premium as well as trade impacted workers as of May will have an 80% credit toward insurance.”UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS HAVE ALSO BEEN EXTENDED – UP TO 59 WEEKS…ON AVERAGE A JOB SEEKER SPENDS 17 WEEKS BEFORE WORK IS FOUND…MANY OF THOSE LOOKING SPEND THEIR TIME AT CAREER CENTERS LIKE THIS ONE IN AUGUSTADIRECTOR JOHN CHRISTIE SAYS AS THE UNEMPLOYMENT RATE KEEPS CLIMBING HIS JOB BECOMES MORE CHALLENGING…”Those of us involved in the world of what used to be called workforce development trying to get people trained and get people jobs now we’re spending our time in survival mode just trying to help them get from day to day.”COMING UP TOMORROW NIGHT WE’LL MEET 4 PEOPLE WHO ARE USING THE CAREER CENTER TO FIND WORK. WE’LL HEAR MORE ABOUT THEIR STORIES AND SEE IF THEY’VE HAD ANY LUCK.