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Bill Immen of Holden Beach just filed for unemployment for the first time in his life, but he’s still optimistic about the future. He says he’s entering a new phase in his life and career and is making sure he’s available for the next opportunity.
Immen moved to Brunswick County from New Jersey 23 years ago as a machinist with General Electric. In 1998, he left his job for health reasons and soon started his own paint contracting company.
When business started “going south” about a year-and-a-half ago, Immen moved on again, this time taking a job at Food Lion in Holden Beach, where he worked in the deli. Last week, he lost that job after a verbal altercation with another employee and is now appealing the company’s decision.
In the meantime, he’s signed up for state unemployment benefits at the Shallotte Employment Security Commission office, and he’s grateful for the assistance.
“I wasn’t dreading it. I’m quite optimistic. Here’s another chapter in my life closed, and it’s time to move on to something else,” Immen said. “I’ve learned in my 23 years here that if you cannot do 10 different jobs proficiently, you’re not going to make it here.”
Immen is one of the county’s growing number of unemployed residents—2,637 were counted in July—looking for work in a sluggish economy and hoping for the best.
Brunswick County’s unemployment rate topped out at 6.8 percent in July, higher than even the state’s 6.6 percent average, according to statistics released recently by the N.C. Employment Security Commission.
In July 2007, the unemployment rate was 4.7 percent.
The last time Brunswick’s rates were that high in the summer months was in 2002, according to ESC statistics. In June of 2002, the rate topped out at 6.9 percent, followed by 6.8 percent in July.
Since then, the labor force—the number of employable people living in the county—has increased from 38,651 to 49,967.
Brunswick County ESC Director Eli Smith said recently most workers are seeking construction jobs, clerical/administrative work and jobs in the service sector. He says people are still moving into the area looking for work.
As for new jobs, Smith said new retail establishments are coming to the area, and boat- building companies in surrounding areas are still looking for workers, but it’s not enough to replace the jobs that have been lost since the construction slowdown.
Smith said he advises most clients to be persistent, take inventory of their skills to determine how they can be transferred to other jobs and make sure their resumes are up-to-date and accurate.
But receiving benefits isn’t automatic. Clients must give the ESC office information about why they left their previous jobs, and the state ESC makes the determination as to whether each person qualifies.
If so, the client’s job information is put into the ESC job database, and the agency tries to match it whenever a job match is found.
While receiving benefits, a participant must also contact two different companies each week and provide proof to the ESC of the contacts.
Immen, for one, is grateful for the help.
“It’s fantastic that we have a good resource right here, and we don’t have to go to Wilmington or Whiteville or another city to have access to it.”
As a single father of three, Immen knows the importance of accepting help when it’s offered as well as the value of remaining positive and working hard.
Right now, he is finding that more doors have opened to his painting business. Some of his former customers have come back, and he’s been able to put in bids for several jobs. He said the ESC benefits will be helpful while he his business gets back on track.
“I’m telling my friends in the trades—put your best foot forward, advertise yourself. People are coming here, and they will be in need of your services.”
sarah shew wilson is a staff writer for the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or email@example.com.