In March 20-10 Maine’s unemployment level was at a whopping 9-point-7 percent.
Last October the unemployment rate in our state was 5-point-7 percent, its lowest in five years.
But recent layoffs at the Bangor Daily News, at Lincoln Paper and Tissue, and shutdowns in Millinocket and Bucksport have added more Mainers to the unemployment line.
This is the first time some of these Mainers have been looking for work, others have been laid off before.
But regardless how many times the pink slip has been in a worker’s hands, as Maine Representative Mike Michaud says it’s difficult to deal with. “People work there for years and years and that’s all that they know and if they lose their job you’ve got to make sure that they have the skills that they need to try to find other opportunities, and sometimes it’s very scary.”
Fear and grief are two common feelings to those who have lost their job according to Ed Upham the Manager of the Bangor Career Center. “It is actually part of the process that they go through when they lose their job, it is a lot like losing a loved one where you go through a period where you blame yourself, you go through a period where you blame the company, you go through a period where you don’t have any sense of self worth and then you start to come out of all that and you and you say I’ve got to get going here I’ve got to look for a job and I’ve got to become re employed.”
Cynthia Oakes has been laid off four times in her life, the last time, she was one of the long term unemployed.She kept looking but didn’t find anything in traditional searches, It was a gathering at a friend’s house that led her off the unemployment line. “One of the friends of my friend was a head hunter a human resource person at a temporary agency, and I asked her what she did and when she told me I said ‘Oooh, what have you got?’ and she said I have a job with Bath Fitter of Maine that i think you’d be perfect for, she set up the interview and that’s how I got hired on through the temporary agency with Bath Fitter of Maine, so just talking to anyone it could get you a job it could be that easy.”
The job wasn’t full time, so Cynthia also found a second job working at Harbor Freight Tools to make the ends meet. “The two together make a living and sometimes you have to think out of the box you might have to take a different route, you might even have to take a job that you’ve never done before, but is easy enough for you to pick up quickly so that you’re building up your unemployment and not languishing out there.”
in January Congressman Michaud was in Lincoln to speak to some of the workers impacted by the shutdown at the mill there, and offered advice. “Don’t give up I know it’s really frustrating I’m lucky since I was only unemployed once when I worked at the mill and it’s very difficult and times have changed and there are opportunities out there you’ve just got to keep moving forward and find those opportunities.”
Cynthia didn’t give up, and now has those two jobs and says she is very happy with both of them, but she is more happy to have a job and be back working. “It was inspiring, it made me happy, I could actually have a future and I could actually have a life again, because living on unemployment is really no way to be, that should always be a temporary situation.”
And after she is done in this phase of her life and she retires form the work force, the time on the unemployment line has inspired Cythnia to know what she wants to do next. “I would like to be an employee advocate, helping the unemployed or the people looking for a job to have better opportunity and also to help them once they gain a job to have more employee rights.”