Richmond County Daily Journal
Sean McDonald walked into the Employment Security Commission Thursday morning hoping to find some steady work.
He paused at the board just inside the door to peruse job listings posted, then walked in and stood in line behind the three people who were already lined up to register at the desk and was led to Employment Consultant John Slovak’s cubicle after waiting for about five minutes.
“Do y’all still do veteran preference for jobs,” he asked Slovak as he sat down.
Slovak asked a series of questions related to his previous work experience and what kind of job he would like to have.
“Why were you separated from them,” he asked of McDonald’s former employer.
“Slow work,” he said simply.
After meeting with Slovak, and with job referrals in hand, McDonald explained that he is a machinist who has been out of work a little less than a month.
“It got real slow around Christmas, and I thought I had another job at a place in Charlotte, and that kind of fell through, so I went back to work but I just couldn’t get any hours,” he said. “I decided I better start looking for something new because I have to make a certain amount of money, because I’ve got bills, you know.
“So, I’m on the hunt now.”
His hunt has taken him all over Richmond County.
“I’ve been filling out applications everywhere. I’ve been to Superior Cranes, Scholl’s and a lot of other places like that. I see somewhere, and I stop,” he said. “At this point, I’d be willing to take anything, but a machinist - that’s really what I want to do. I’ve been doing it about three years, so I’ve got a little bit of experience.”
McDonald said one of the job referrals he received at the ESC Thursday was for a machinist position in Robbins.
“I’m going to e-mail them my resume and see what happens,” he said.
McDonald said the job market is a bit intimidating right now.
“I know that so many people are out of work,” he said. “I heard somebody say there aren’t any jobs around, and I know there aren’t that many, but there’s got to be something. Somebody’s got to need some help.”
Richmond County unemployment statistics were released Friday, reflecting another increase in the county rate.
From November to December, it climbed nearly another percentage point to nearly 12 percent.
The county wasn’t as hard hit as some other counties, and maintains a lower jobless rate than neighboring Scotland and Anson counties, who register at nearly 14 percent and just over 12.5 percent, respectively.
Richmond also dropped to tenth on the list of highest unemployment rates statewide, despite its increase.
McDonald stressed the importance of not getting down in the face of adversity.
“You just have to stay optimistic about it. If I have to relocate, I don’t mind moving. I just want to work,” he said.
Optimism was hard to come by for at least two job seekers in Rockingham this week.
Both Anthony Zeigler and Melinda Tincher said they are growing impatient to go to work, but can’t even land an interview to try for a job.
“The trouble is even getting a foot in the door and getting an interview,” Tincher said. “The rep back there can tell you, I’ve put in 50 applications in the past four months, and I’ve gotten one interview.”
She said she has 14 years of experience as an office manager and five years as a paralegal. She’s also owned her own business.
The one interview she did get went well, but she never heard back from them.
“She was nice enough to tell me that out of 100 applications, I was one of the final 10,” she said. “So it’s not that my resumes are bad, or my experience is bad, it’s just that there’s so much competition. It’s a hard market. It’s hard to get in anywhere and with all the lay-offs, competition’s getting worse and worse.”
She said she recently sent her resume out to 15 law firms, because of her experience as a paralegal.
“I’m even applying for part-time positions - anything I can get,” she said.
Zeigler last worked as an electrician’s helper. He’s been unemployed for an extended period of time, besides odd jobs and yard work, and the job search has taken a toll on his marriage and his life.
“Sometimes I think they just take my application and throw it in the trashcan,” he said disgustedly. “It ain’t what you know, it’s who you know. It’s sorry. They don’t want to give you a chance so you can show them that you want to work.”
Thursday was the third time he put in an application with Perdue. He fears the lack of available work could make him lose everything that matters the most to him.
“I’m just taking it day-by-day,” Zeigler said. “My wife is working, but I’m the breadwinner. I can’t have her doing everything, but this place here leaves you no other alternative.”
He pressed his splayed fingers to his chest and emphasized the word “I” when he expressed his need to be the breadwinner for his family.
He said he’s going back to get his GED and is continuing to actively seek work, but it feels like there’s a clock ticking in the background all the time.
Brandis Ivery and Jessica Liles are friends, and they were job hunting together in Ivery’s car.
Liles said she just graduated from high school two years ago and is a mother of two, so she has limited work experience.
“Anything, it don’t matter, just anything that’s worth working for,” she said of her ideal job situation right now.
This is the second time she’s been to the ESC recently, and has been applying other places as well, but she admits she hasn’t been doing as good a job hunting as she should.
“I haven’t really been looking-looking,” she said. “But really, I’d like to get into nursing. I’m going to ask about getting back to school to get my CNA and getting some money.”
“(Brandis) is taking me to Perdue when we leave here, so hopefully I can get a call back,” Liles said.
Ivery has more experience in the workplace than Liles. She has worked for Hanes as a clothes patter, learned auto body skills in the Job Corps and more recently worked at Perdue.
She’s been out of work a week.
“I’ve been looking at jobs over the Internet, and sometimes I might go to places like fast food restaurants, because anything’s better than nothing,” she said.
She is also interested in furthering her education while she’s not working, and has already applied to Richmond Community College and the community college in Cheraw. She’d like to study business, perhaps accounting, because she feels that math is her strong suit.
“Ideally, the main thing I want to do, is get back in school, and go to school and go to school and go to school,” Ivery said. “Which ever one sends me the letter first, that’s where I’m going.”
For now, her job hunt continues, and she said that when she’s gone out and gotten in front of people, she’s gotten a varied response.
“They say they’ll call you. Some of them do, some of them don’t,” she said. “Sometimes they’ll say, ‘This is not for you,’ but like with fast food, that could be for anybody.”
Frankie Croom worked at Sara Lee for 33 years, until it closed. She’s back in school to be a CNA, and is drawing unemployment.
“That helps a lot,” she said.
She has been looking at CNA positions, but hasn’t really begun putting out applications. Her faith helps her to cope with her unemployment.
“I just put my faith in the Lord, and I pray that He will help me,” she said. “He knows my heart, and He knows my desires.”
Phillip Martin was job hunting on the computers at the ESC.
He has been working in construction for about 13 years, mostly doing big jobs in places like Fort Bragg and Raleigh.
“I enjoy traveling,” he said.
He got laid off about three weeks ago due to a slowdown in business for his former company.
“I went from high school, to the Job Corps, and ever since then I’ve been doing construction or remodeling,” he said. “Mostly building from the ground up.”
He said he’s had a lot of luck with interviews and has multiple jobs lined up, but needs work now.
“I’m looking for something immediate, I don’t want to go on unemployment,” Martin said. “If something opens up right now, I’d rather go with that.”
His search Thursday was focused on Moore County and Anson County.
“Somewhere other than Richmond County, there’s just not a lot to offer here,” he said.