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Hundreds seek work at job fair

April 08, 2005|by DANIEL J. SERNOVITZ

daniels@herald-mail.com

HALFWAY - For more than a decade, Smithsburg resident Dwight Daudet worked as a salesman and field technician for a telecommunications firm outside Washington County.

As he walked among the booths Thursday at Valley Mall, he found himself thrust into the role of job applicant.

"I got laid off in February from a job I had for 15 years, and I'm just trying to get back in the job market," Daudet said. "I'm finding that, after being out of it for 15 years, it's a new experience. I'm kind of nervous about it."

Hundreds of job seekers sought placement with 47 companies in the region at the Spring Job Fair. The event was held from noon to 6 p.m. by The Herald-Mail Newspapers in conjunction with Hagerstown Community College and The Maryland Job Service.

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Nearly 400 Washington County residents were added to the unemployment lists in February, according to statistics released Thursday by the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. The number of unemployed workers in the county rose from 4.6 percent to 5.2 percent, where it stood in February 2004.

Mary Jo Easily, administrator with the state labor department's Office of Labor Market Analysis, said the rise in unemployment rates is part of a cycle started in January, tied to winter weather and an end to holiday retail sales.

"We're not talking about anything, truthfully, abnormal in terms of trends," she said. "February's not normally a very active month. In terms of trends, it's pretty much on key. We tend to always have winter declines in January, February."

Shanon Wolf, director of the One-Stop Job Center, said she spoke with a variety of job seekers at the fair entering the job market for a variety of reasons including college graduation, leaving military service, and layoffs. The center helps job seekers with their search process.

Tim Troxell, director of the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission, said he expects the unemployment rate will start to drop off in April as warm-weather work such as construction and landscaping begin. Those gains, however, could be offset by losses from companies that announced layoff and plant closures in January, including GST AutoLeather, Fleetwood Travel Trailers of Maryland Inc. and Phoenix Color Corp., he said.

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