LEWISTON — A full parking lot told the story: Thursday's job fair at the Lewiston CareerCenter was teeming with people, ages 20 to 60-plus.
Dressed in a jacket and tie, Richard Beauparlant said he was looking for a position in materials management, purchasing or inventory control.
“I worked for Associated Grocers in Gardiner," he said. "I was one of 150 people who was terminated overnight.”
Beauparlant was one of 600 job-seekers expected at the biannual job fair, CareerCenter Manager Mary LaFontaine said.
The heavy turnout was anticipated, “given the economy is where it's at,” LaFontaine said.
But she was smiling and upbeat.
“We have 32 employers here today," she said. "We did a preliminary count of jobs employers have — 2,000 jobs are represented here today.”
Employers included Bates College, L.L. Bean, Cianbro, Carbonite, Clover Health Care, Lewiston-Auburn 911, Lee Auto Mall, VIP, New Balance, Time Warner, Bonney Staffing, TD Bank and several health-care agencies.
The number of jobs being offered is an improvement for the local economy, LaFontaine said.
“In the last three months we've seen an increase in the number of job postings," she said. "People who weren't hiring are hiring again.”
But, LaFontaine cautioned, there still are more applicants than jobs. “We aren't out of the woods yet.”
Charles Burney, 32, of Lewiston, who was looking for kitchen work, said he had been out of work for more than a year. “I worked in Florida, where I'm from, for an Italian restaurant.”
Abdulahi Abdi, 22, of Lewiston, was looking for “whatever I can do, retail.” He's been out of work for a few months. The job market is competitive, Abdi said. “It's not like you can just wake up and go out there and get a job."
He was hoping the job fair would provide some “progression.”
Timothy Brooks, 50, of Lewiston, said he was applying for jobs in retail, food service and health care.
“I've been out of work for 13 months. It's hard,” Brooks said. “You'll make out a lot of applications. You may get three interviews.”
Katherine Doyle, 20, of Lewiston, said she became unemployed when the nonprofit agency she worked for went out of business in July due to lack of funds.
Doyle wants to work in early childhood education.
“It's tough," she said. Positions she's applied for “want you to have a degree. I'm working toward a degree."
She might have to look for work in a different field so she can have an income and still work toward her degree, she said.
She and Andrea White of Woodstock were applying for jobs with a home health-care agency. White said she was employed but was looking to get back into the health-care field.
Jake Turner, 32, of Monmouth, said he'd been unemployed for less than a month because he moved here from out of state.
“I did maintenance,” he said, and left a great job when he relocated. You don't realize how bad the unemployment situation is, Turner said, until you start looking for work.
Applying for a job last week, he sat for an examination. “I thought it was only going to be myself," he said. "There were 15 other people sitting there.”
Still, Turner was confident, saying he had some good leads.
Bruce Baldwin of Auburn said he was looking for “anything.” At the job fair, he found a few jobs he was interested in, including work at International Paper.
He said he was laid off and had been out of work since March.
“It's not easy right now,” he said. “There's not much out there.”