By Steven Fletcher
No matter what they did or want to do for a living, folks that came for a job fair held at the Elks on Bass Rocks said that any work would be good work.
More than 200 people of a wide range of ages and backgrounds came to the fair Tuesday, hosted by several local nonprofit groups and the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce. The job seekers offered resumes and filled out applications with 21 employers, from Woodman's in Essex to Comcast, to the Seacoast Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Gloucester.
Some came looking for their first job, for more steady work hours; others made their latest stop on a yearlong search for work.
"The point is to get a regular income again," said Steve King of Gloucester. "But I'd like to work in a field I'm good at."
King lost his job at Friendly's on Grant Circle when the restaurant changed management. He worked there for 20 months after finding himself out of work as a call center employee. King said he wants to get back to work in a call center, or customer service role, but for now, he'll take what he can get.
Like King, others who came to the job fair from other parts of the North Shore had switched their career paths after losing their jobs. Tina Russell, a registered nurse at the Den-Mar Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Rockport, saw a few of them Tuesday.
"We had some one with a marketing background who was looking to get into health care as a more stable field," Russell said.
The city's unemployment rate ticked above 10 percent in February, according to the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development. The city's 10.2 percent unemployment is lower than the February mark for 2011, yet it's 36 percent above the statewide rate of 7.5 percent.
The Labor and Workforce Development report showed that 1,611 workers were unemployed in February from a workforce of 15,841, and all of that is in a city whose latest population is listed at 28,000.
Manufacturing and processing, two of the city's core industries, have cut back over the years and the city's fishing industry continues face a harsh regulatory climate that has reduced the fleet — including a loss of 21 of 96 groundfishing boats in 2010 alone, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration figures assessing the impact of a new federal fishery management system.
The city's economy is adding jobs, though not in manufacturing or production, if Tuesday's job fair was any indicator. The additions statewide, statistics show, are coming in the fields of leisure and hospitality, followed by transportation and utilities, and education and health services. All of those fields were represented Tuesday at the job fair.
"(The city's economy) is all in production, but the plants are closing down and moving," said Tiffanie Calisto, a commercial representative with Aerotech, a placement firm. She said she took some resumes from several people who were employed by Good Harbor Fillet, which closed in January after Seattle-based conglomerate American Seafoods Group LLC bought it with plans to move the company to New Bedford.
Moving is hard on people who are used to working and living in Gloucester, Calisto said.
"(I'm) seeing growth in hospitality services, accommodations and restaurants and health services areas," said Peter Webber of the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce.
But, he said, much of that growth is in part-time and seasonal work.
Woodman's of Essex has a few openings for waitstaff and kitchen staff in its banquet hall, said Cara Pratt, the restaurant's events coordinator. The restaurant has booked more weddings than usual this year, she said, and needs extra help. The work isn't quite year-round, she added, and depends on how well the banquet hall runs.
"It's more year-round than other parts of the Woodman's business," Pratt said.
Employers at the fair included Cape Ann Transportation, Northeast Behavioral Health, American Resource Staffing, Greater Lynn Senior Services, Cape Ann Marina, Best Home Care, Den-Mar Nursing Home, Five Guys Burgers & Fries, Eliot Community Human Services, Edward Jones, Comcast, Papa Gino's, Friendly's, Atlantis Ocean Front Inn and Cruiseport Gloucester and Seaport Grille.
Many of those businesses, though, were looking for part time and per diem employees.
Bob Ryan, head of Cape Ann Transit Authority, said he's looking for part-time and per diem "casual" drivers. They should to have a commercial driver's license, but he said the agency can handle that.
"If they don't have a CDL," he said, "we'll train them."
Zachary Allen of Rockport said he was looking for more hours, and applied to several of the restaurants, from the Cape Ann Marina Resort to Cruiseport. He said he'd like to do something that would make use of his machine shop and auto mechanical experience, but right now, paying the rent matters more.
"(I'm looking for) pretty much anything I can get my hands on," he said.
Steven Fletcher may be contacted at 1-978-283-7000 x3455, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @stevengdt.