Hundreds line up for a chance at a job

July 7, 2009 7:08:31 PM PDT
More than 500 people lined up Tuesday in Santa Rosa to compete for just 70 jobs at a new hardware store. The odds of getting a job were slim, but in a county where jobs are scarce, applicants say they never give up hope.

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Many of the job seekers have been unemployed for a year. So waiting all day to get a job interview is worthwhile.

"I've been here since 9:30, and I've been patient; I have no other plans to do today, so you know, I'm taking it as it is, taking it one step at a time," applicant Cathy Rogers said.

Orchard Supply Hardware is opening a new store this fall in Santa Rosa and there are 70 openings, paying from $8 to almost $17 an hour.

"I was in customer service for almost 20 years, and I know that this is a customer-service oriented business -- OSH is, and I think that that would work out well for both of us, so that's why I'm here," applicant Rick Vogler said. Vogler has been unemployed for a year.

This is a rare opportunity because retail jobs are shrinking in Sonoma County. The current number of retail jobs -- just over 21,000 -- is down almost 8 percent from a year ago. And these are jobs that pay on average about $24,000 a year.

It is rare that one company has so many jobs available at one time.

"Employers often aren't advertising because if they're a small business, they can't take the time to interview 300 or 400 people for one or two positions," Job Link manager Kathy Young said. "So more people are networking, more employers are networking."

Unemployment is staggering in parts of Sonoma County. While the jobless rate averages 9.5 percent, it is almost 18 percent in Monte Rio, over 16 percent in Guerneville and 13 percent in Occidental and Cloverdale.

"I've been to a lot of these, and I'm not going to stop until I get a job," Vogler said.

And for employers, the large field of applicants is a bonus.

"It really is your willingness to walk shoulder-to-shoulder with people through the aisles, help them solve whatever project they're working on, and have them leave with a smile," human resources manager Bruce Haynes said.

The job applicants were very patient Tuesday, but they still have some more waiting to do. They all want second interviews, and they may not hear back from OSH until later this week.

LINK: Bay Area Job Fair Information

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