Unemployment has been a central issue in national political races. Though it hasn’t been as bad on the Hi-Line, with Hill County’s unemployment rate falling to 4.8 percent last month, there are still hundreds of people in the area who wish they could find work.
Many local job-seekers head to the the Job Service office on 2nd Street to get access to resources and help in their search for work.
Shawn Cole was using Job Service computers Tuesday afternoon, looking for ways to use the education he has been pursuing for the past three years.
After spending 30 years working in construction, Cole went back to school for an electrical engineering degree, which he plans to take to North Dakota in a few weeks.
“I guess it's a good time to go to school with grants and everything, ” Cole said. “I don’t know how much longer those will be available. ”
As for his thoughts on the candidates that are fighting over who cares about him more, Cole doesn’t think much of them, or the election.
“I just wish it was over with, ” Cole said. “I'm sick of hearing the ads. I won't vote for either of (the presidential candidates).
“I don’t think anyone back there is doing their job. They’re overpaid. I worked with the government for 17 years, and it drove me crazy becuase those people didn’t do their jobs and weren’t qualified. ”
Cole is equally unimpressed with the legislators, both in Washington and Helena, who he said are “too petty … and act like little kids. ”
The only politician Cole does appreciate, Gov. Brian Schweitzer, is headed for the exit due to term limits. Cole said he appreciated the governor’s efforts in pushing both wind and coal power in the state, and the budget surpluses that “we didn’t have when Judy Martz or Marc Racicot were in office.
“It’s too bad he can’t be in there for four more years. ”
Jesse Henderson was looking for work Wednesday afternoon, after being laid off a seasonal job on the wind farms near Shelby.
Henderson said he was originally an artist, but that people stopped buying his paintings during the recession in 2001 and then even more so following the 2007 collapse.
”It's started to pick up again, ” Henderson said. “But I've got to do this to take care of my family. ”
For his family, he also got an education, pursuing training and an apprenticeship to become a union operator.
“Before that I was looking at jobs for $10 an hour, ” Henderson said. “Now they are $30 an hour. ”
Though he wished the Keystone Pipeline had been approved, for the work it would have brought, Henderson said he is much more enthusiastic about recent renewable energy development.
“Number one, I'm interested in making money for my family, ” Henderson said. “If it can be clean energy, I would prefer it. … The coal, they can send all of that to China. We don’t need that. ”
Henderson, who lives on Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation, said he will probably vote for Obama, who he does not blame for the delayed Keystone Pipeline, because he feels the president is more dedicated to the types of new clean energy jobs that he wants to work. He has not appreciated Romney’s occasional dismissal of renewable energy sources.
Matthew Burgess is not as interested in political races. He said he “signed up” to vote, but would “probably not” vote, come election day.
“I don't know too much about that political stuff, but when it comes to voting for president, when they get elected, they're just looking out for themselves, ” Burgess said. “The government and economy are so messed up right now. ”
Burgess and a friend had just moved to Box Elder a week ago, from Illinois, where they had been laid off from a Monsanto corporate corn farm.
The two came to the Hi-Line, both for personal connections and the much easier job climate.
“It's better around these types of areas, ” Burgess said. “It's hard to find jobs out there. ”