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Employers 'inundated' with job applications

June 27, 2009|By ARNOLD S. PLATOU

TRI-STATE -- When Hagerstown's Grease Monkey wanted to hire someone a year ago to change oil, vacuum cars and check tire pressure, there were 10 or 20 applicants.

When it recently advertised the same job, it had more than 80 applicants.

"We had as many cars with applicants lined up as we did for oil changes," owner Pat Dattilio said. "It was getting confusing. It was just a constant flow all day long for a few days."

The experience was similar to that of a longtime Hagerstown contractor when the company ran an advertisement in The Herald-Mail for an administrative assistant.

"We were just -- I guess, the word 'inundated' would be good -- with applications," said a company official who didn't want to be named.

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"There were so many, we couldn't review them quickly enough. So I canceled the ad after one day. As a matter of fact, we're still getting applications" a week later, he said.

The company had received more than 100 applications at that point, he said.

That's not too surprising given the nation's ongoing recession and high jobless rates.

Across the nation, the unemployment rate rose to 9.4 percent in May, compared to 8.9 percent in April.

In Washington County, the unemployment rate dropped from March's 10.5 percent to 9.7 percent in April. But it increased to 10.1 percent in May, the most recent month for which figures are available.

May's rate was nearly double that of May 2008, when it was 5.1 percent.

Lining up

Apply for just about any job that doesn't require a high level of education and experience, and you likely will find a line of other applicants.

"It's actually pretty scary," said Bill Bachtell, director of human resources at Fab Tech Industries Inc., a custom metal fabricator in Greencastle, Pa.

There, in Franklin County, the jobless rate was 7.8 percent in April compared to 3.5 percent a year ago. In Fulton County, just to the west, it was 13.1 percent in April versus 6.4 percent a year ago.

"I guess some of these people are coming up on the end of their unemployment benefits," Bachtell said.

Fab Tech advertised in The Herald-Mail for an accountant after its current accountant decided to take a job elsewhere, Bachtell said.

The job at Fab Tech is full time and requires at least an associate degree and two to three years of experience.

Bachtell said his company was surprised by the response.

"We've probably had over 40 résumés come in," he said. "I just spoke with the owner. He's got a pile of résumés sent in and also e-mailed in. I don't think anyone expected us to get that many.

"There's even a few in there that are overqualified. We have people with MBAs applying. Whether they're out of work or whether they're just exploring, I don't know."

Bachtell said he and his co-workers know firsthand how bad the economy is.

Normally, Fab Tech employs 40 to 45 people.

"But we're probably at half of that right now," he said.

The family-owned company, in Greencastle for several decades, designs and manufactures metal parts for other area companies.

"We're in the same boat as machine shops and metal shops in the area who rely on local businesses that, obviously, aren't doing so well" in this economy, Bachtell said.

Lots of applicants

Whether the job opening involves treating dirty water, cleaning dirty bathrooms or vacuuming dirty cars, there are lots of applicants these days.

Phil Snow, owner of Mr. Softee Water Treatment and Pump Service Inc. north of Hagerstown, said he was surprised when as many as 10 people applied for a service/installation technician job he offered recently.

The résumés came in quickly and a couple were even from people "smarter than me," he said. "I was very surprised. I was impressed with that."

The job requires plumbing and other skills for dealing with Mr. Softee's usual array of targets -- "hard water, dirty water, smelly water, green water," Snow said.

Snow, 72, who has owned the dealership since 1975, said when he last had to hire such a worker six or seven years ago, there were hardly any applicants.

He said the company, whose territory includes Greencastle, Pa., and Martinsburg, W.Va., has seen the recession in other ways, too.

"It's rough on business," he said. "People (are) not spending the money. ... They don't have it. ... They're worried about making the payments on the houses they bought."

Snow's business began to slow early last year, but now "it's started to pick up," he said. "I've seen three of these recessions. I've got a thick skin. Just go anyhow."

At Fort Frederick State Park in the western part of Washington County, more than 60 people recently applied for a job that might only last up to 10 months and offers no benefits.

"Usually, we get a lot of applications in the spring because that's when we open up and it's mostly college and high school students," said Angie Hummer, manager of the park. "But now, it seems to be people that have been laid off and are looking for work."

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