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Hundreds shop for jobs at mall

April 21, 2006|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

HALFWAY - Tuning out clothes, electronics and fast-food vendors around them, hundreds of people shopped at Valley Mall on Thursday for something more significant: a job.

Sixty-five employers lined the mall's corridors, too, hoping to make a match.

Recruiters said they were pleased with the number of people who stopped to ask for information. A few reported running out of applications, which they took as a good sign.

Ken Garber, an inside sales manager for The Herald-Mail, one of the job fair's sponsors, estimated that 800 to 1,000 people visited the mall Thursday afternoon to find out about jobs.

He said that number was good, but down from the 1,500 people who attended a job fair at Hagerstown Community College.

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Garber offered two possible explanations: Either the weather was too nice or low unemployment is thinning the pool of prospective workers.

Neither theory applied to Luther Nutter of Charles Town, W.Va.

As he filled out an application to work at Tractor Supply Co., Nutter said he was laid off from his job at Eastalco Aluminum Co. in December 2005.

He had worked there for 27 1/2 years, cutting and inspecting metal.

Nutter said he was making $17.50 an hour. At the mall on Thursday, he was finding jobs that paid $8 to $12 an hour.

Worse, the rising price of gas will limit how far he will be able to commute.

Still, Nutter said he was ready to do "about anything" to make a living.

Filling out another Tractor Supply application at the same table, George O'Brien of Hagerstown also was eager to get a job, but under different circumstances.

O'Brien said he's about to graduate from Hagerstown Community College, where he studied criminal justice. He figured that a warehouse job paying about $10 an hour would prevent him from having to ride a moped around town instead of a car.

Shanon Wolf, the administrator of the Western Maryland Job Centers in Washington, Allegany and Garrett counties, said people of all ages and backgrounds came to her booth for rsum reviews.

She said there's a fair amount of competition for warehouse and distribution workers in Washington County.

But distribution centers weren't the only ones looking to fill positions.

The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services is trying to hire 175 correctional officers at the three prisons south of Hagerstown, recruiter Kelly Voyce said.

She said it became easier to market the jobs when the starting pay rose from $28,100 to $33,400. New employees also get a $1,000 signing bonus after a year of satisfactory work, she said.

At a nearby table, FedEx Ground recruiter Jennifer Knight said package handling jobs there start at about $10.75 to $11.25 an hour.

The U.S. Census Bureau, Verizon and Charles Town Races & Slots had booths at the mall, too. Garber said the fair included a mix of industries, including about 15 booths in the medical field.

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