They agreed, at least, that job loss in Massachusetts is a problem.
But the four candidates for state Senate who spoke last week at a meeting of the 495 Networking Support Group offered different ideas about what government could and should do to promote job growth and help those who are out of work.
The forum, which touched on topics from outsourcing to job retraining, featured state Senator Pam Resor, an Acton Democrat, and her challenger, Rod Jan, a Westborough Republican; and state Senator Richard Moore, a Milford Democrat, and his challenger, Jerzy Jachimczyk, a Southbridge Republican.
The four candidates spoke to an audience of local residents who have been laid off -- many from high-tech jobs -- and whose painstaking searches for new work have given them firsthand knowledge of the local job market.
A highly political issue throughout this election season, outsourcing -- the practice of sending jobs to other states or overseas -- was an early target. Moore said he supported finding incentives to deter businesses from engaging in the practice.
"I think it's gotten to the point where it's become a serious drain on the economy," he said.
Resor criticized Governor Mitt Romney for vetoing a legislative provision that would have prohibited Massachusetts from outsourcing state jobs.
"We ought to be ashamed that that's happening," Resor said, suggesting that tax cuts and credits may help curb the shipping of jobs outside the state.
Jan, a businessman who stuck to a platform of making Massachusetts more "conducive" to business, said not all companies that outsource are unethical.
He criticized the Democratic Legislature for implementing policies that he said are unfriendly to businesses, and said he believes jobs will continue to go elsewhere unless companies can afford to do business here. He mentioned high health care costs as a major impediment to companies in the state. "No training program is going to stop that," Jan said of jobs leaving the state.
Jachimczyk, a Polish immigrant, also said he supported making Massachusetts more friendly to business owners through tax reforms, but he generally spoke of keeping government intervention to a minimum. He expressed optimism that the "entrepreneurial spirit" would help people who are currently out of work succeed.
"Sometimes you lose a job, sometimes you're on the wagon, sometimes you're under the wagon," Jachimczyk said.
The four candidates also addressed what Moore referred to as "insourcing" -- offering visas to foreign workers for local jobs. All suggested it was a reasonable practice -- if there was a shortage of local workers.
"We ought to make sure we're dealing with people here first," Moore said.
The forum attracted a small audience of support group members, several of whom do not live in the candidates' districts. Brian Robinson, a Holliston resident working as a consultant while he is looking for a job in technical support, said he was swayed by Jan's philosophy of finding solutions through the private sector.
Robert Duncan, who lost a marketing position three years ago and now works two jobs, was concerned about the slow pace of the job recovery.
He suggested that some incentives for businesses could be more specifically targeted to helping the unemployed, but he noted that there is no easy solution. "As all have said, there's no magic bullet," Duncan said.
Emily Shartin can be reached at email@example.com.