While the state’s unemployment rate is well below the national average, thousands of people are still searching for a job.
Friday, many of the state’s unemployed showed up for a job fair for a new $100 million shopping center in Merrimack. The retail outlet is expected to create more than 800 positions.
By 7 a.m. Friday morning, hundreds of people lined up outside Nashua Community College for the Merrimack Premium Outlet job fair.
When it opens in mid-June, the outlets will feature 100 clothing, home goods, and other stores.
And that means filling hundreds of positions now.
Annette Seessoulus came to the fair from Francestown, New Hampshire. She says she's hoping this is the morning her luck will turn around.
"I got here super early. I’ve been unemployed three months now and it’s been really hard and difficult to find a job," said Seessoulus.
Patrice Noelle from Wilton, New Hampshire has been out of work for almost two years. When asked what type of work she was looking for, Noelle said, "I’ll do basically anything. I’ll sweep floors. My degree is in business."
When the doors opened at 8 a.m., a legion of hungry applicants — with résumés in tow — flooded the large hall.
Representatives from big chain stores were ready to interview for positions ranging from custodians to customer service.
Gov. John Lynch stopped by to offer encouragement.
"Are you just getting here now?" Lynch asked a job-seeker. "I think there’s a lot of opportunity here. I really do," said Lynch.
The Governor says New Hampshire’s unemployment rate is 40 percent below the 8.3 percent national average.
"But we still have over 30,000 people out of work. The outlet mall will end up creating a minimum of 800 jobs, which is very exciting, and it may end up being more jobs than that," said Lynch.
When the developers proposed the Merrimack Premium Outlet in 2004, the excitement it generated was more contentious than hopeful.
Merrimack residents voiced outrage over the noise and traffic congestion the outdoor shopping mall would create.
But ultimately, the vision of an economic boost eclipsed any chances Merrimack had of keeping its small town charisma.
According to the developer’s website, the retail center is likely to generate more than $800 million in real estate taxes — and bring in five million visitors a year.
Jean Guinup is with the Northeast Region Premium Outlets. She explains the halo effect of a retail operation this size. When people shop, she says, they also dine at restaurants or go to the movies. "People will come for the day. We do shop and stay packages. We are setting up packages with at least a dozen hotels in the area. So it can be a weekend getaway destination as well, " said Guinup.
In southern New Hampshire, the outlet is not likely to fill a void of shopping options. The region is already dense with both large and small strip malls.
But it does bring jobs. And judging by the day’s turnout of 3,000 to 4,000 people, that’s what most communities want.