Is it hard to get a job with a criminal record? Well, is rain wet?

While no one is going to remove the moisture from rain, there is an active program in Portland to make it easier for ex-convicts to find productive work. The potential payoffs of that effort are substantial.

True, the average employer, faced with a choice between an applicant with a clean record and one with just a record, would normally not spend much time in thought before picking the first. Still, there are social costs to that decision.

An ex-con with a job can re-enter society as a productive member, and is much less likely to reoffend. But if it’s difficult or impossible to find work, former inmates may slip back into crime and end up back behind bars at the end of the downward cycle. Instead of being productive, they again cost taxpayers money in court proceedings and the expenses of long-term incarceration.

That’s why Maine Day Labor Inc., a Portland agency that hires temporary employees, is working with ex-convicts to get them part-time, temporary work.

That can be easier than finding them full-time jobs straight out of prison, but it can give them enough income to let them support themselves for a while.

Then the temporary work leads to a record of productive labor that can yield recommendations and a resume that will open the door to a full-time job.

And the agency is reducing the risk to employers by working with their clients to get them counseling and showing them someone is counting on them to succeed.

That is often all it takes to turn an ex-con into a productive worker.