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Over the past six to nine months, I've interviewed many out-of-work Maryland residents who have shared their stories of being laid off during this grim economy as well as how they are coping with unemployment.

Economic conditions and unemployment have only gotten worse as jobs become harder to find. The monthly hiring rate is at its lowest level since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking the data in December 2000.

Some of these people have appeared in the pages of The Baltimore Sun, while others did not. I will occasionally follow up with them to find out where they are now: Are they still looking for a job? Have they found success despite such discouraging news?

Here are two stories.

Still looking

James Anderson is still out of work after being laid off in November after 17 years as a driver for DHL Express. The shipping company, which discontinued domestic-only air and ground services, cut 188 workers in the Baltimore area.

At that time, Maryland's unemployment rate was 5.1 percent. Since then, the jobless rate in the state has climbed to 7.3 percent in June, the worst it's been in a generation.

I met Anderson at a job fair in March, where he and a friend were scouting opportunities. He told me then that he wants to stay a driver and that hasn't changed.

"I know things will turn around eventually," said the 37-year-old Baltimore resident.

Since November, he has been living on unemployment benefits, a small severance and his savings, which he believes have been depleted by $5,000.

Anderson spends several hours a day on the hunt, making calls and applying for jobs. He has had several interviews but nothing has panned out. He recently interviewed with FedEx, which he believes went well and "it's a matter of something opening up."

While realizing that employers have the upper hand in this job market, Anderson remains optimistic.

"I can't give up," he said. "When my mom was living, she always told me, 'Life goes in cycles. You're going to have down times and the upside of things.' I'm trying to stay positive and keep a good support network of friends and family."

'Huge burden' lifted

After almost seven months without a job, Loretta Goodridge got some good news this week when she got a part-time contract to help marketing and social media efforts at an organic snack maker, Snikiddy, based in Colorado. Goodridge, who will be working with the company's founder in Bethesda, hopes this opportunity turns into something more.

"It feels like a huge burden has been lifted from my shoulder," said Goodridge, who was featured in The Sun in an article about more 20-something workers getting laid off during this recession. She lost her $65,000-a-year contract in January when seed money dried up at an Internet start-up.

"It's generally uplifting for my morale. It makes me feel good that every day I could do something that I want to do and start advancing my career."

Goodridge, who graduated from the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business in May, approached her job search aggressively, attending networking events, meeting new people and staying in contact with industry players.

Along the way, she found what worked and what didn't.

Using job posts didn't lead anywhere; "it started to become a black hole," she said.

Goodridge says she became more selective about networking, pinpointing organizations and people who were more willing to help her find opportunities. She was diligent about staying in contact with a small group of people who know her, and in fact, it was one of her contacts who told her about the job at Snikiddy.

Goodridge also took a part-time waitressing job, which she'll keep.

To keep her skills and morale up, Goodridge volunteered for the American Marketing Association and launched a budget-friendly cooking Web site - - that combines her love of cooking, need to save money and skills with online start-ups.

"For me, it was keeping my mind busy and active," she says. "Something to show people that I am still continuously working on something."

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