Jose Ramos didn’t think it would take long to find another job when he joined the ranks of the unemployed in early August.

“But here I am,” he said last week. “Things have changed a whole lot since then.”

Ramos, of South Portland, is one of a rising number of Mainers trying to rise to the top of a job market that is more complicated and competitive than any they’ve experienced.

The daily dose of bad economic news is providing little encouragement and is sure to thrust more job seekers into the already tight market, they say. But Ramos and other local job seekers said they are determined to stay upbeat.

“You simply can’t let that get to you. You have to keep your chin up,” said Laurie Henger of Windham who has been job hunting since mid-August.

Ramos left his last job as a satellite TV technician to find a job that didn’t require him to work long hours up to seven days a week, he said. He is married and has a son and two stepchildren.

He quickly learned the ropes of job hunting in a digital world and posted his resume on several Web sites. He watches for new openings on the sites and in the newspaper, and has family and friends looking for leads.

Like other job seekers, Ramos sent numerous digital copies of his resume out and in most cases never received a yes or a no. He has had some interviews, but no offers.

Ramos has technical and customer-service experience, and says there isn’t much he’s not able or willing to do.

Last week, he applied for a job at a local restaurant. Two days later, he hadn’t heard back.

“I said, ‘I can’t believe I’m applying for a dish-washing job.’ And then I said, ‘I can’t believe I didn’t hear from a dish-washing job.'”

His wife works as pastry chef for a summer resort. She will soon be unemployed too, looking for work in a seasonal job market that is expected to be extra competitive.

The couple has been using retirement savings to get through, and the family may soon qualify for food stamps and other aid, they said. Ramos plans to seek a temporary job or handyman work while he keeps searching.

“There’s not a lot of jobs, but there’s a lot of people looking.” Still, he said, “I think something positive will come out of it.”

Laurie Henger lost her job of 15 years at a Portland financial services company in mid-August when the income processing position was contracted out.

She immediately found the job-hunting process had changed since she last circulated a resume about 20 years ago. She posted her resume on employment sites and e-mailed copies to several large companies.

“You can’t just walk in to firms with your resume. Everything is done online,” she said. “You get these little e-mails saying ‘Thanks for applying online and we’ll get back to you.'”

Then you hear nothing, and are left wondering if anyone actually read the resume, she said.

Henger has been working part time in an eye-care center in Gray through a temporary agency and said the experience is improving her odds of finding a full-time job and helping to pay bills.

Her husband has health insurance that covers her and her daughter, she said. But the family has still had to cash in some retirement savings.

Henger said she watches what’s happening in the financial markets “and my stomach just dives.” But she also said she isn’t letting herself get angry or depressed. “I have no doubt that we’ll make it.”

Carson Hanrahan of Portland, a former chief information officer, has been job hunting since June.

As an executive who was earning more than $100,000 a year, he has fewer places to look than many others. And the economic uncertainty is not helping.

“What I’m hearing from recruiters is that people in those roles are nervous, too, so they’re not going to want to move.” And, he said, “companies are nervous, so they’re worried about making big investments.”

He is looking for openings in Boston and Portsmouth as well, but doesn’t want to relocate because his two children are here.

Hanrahan has been posting his profile on a business networking site and tailoring his resume so that it can be easily found by employers searching by keywords or phrases. He also has taken on consulting work.

“There is some concern what’s going to happen in the economy. It certainly raises a level of anxiety,” he said. “But, at the same time, I can’t really let that affect me. … Just about everybody goes through a time like this in their lives. It’s just a question of how you handle it.”


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