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The reality of five applicants for every position: Scenes from a job fair

January 6, 2011 | 11:09 am

Job fair
A much-cited Bureau of Labor Statistics survey shows that there are about 4.5 unemployed people for every job opening in the U.S. labor market. The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey shows that number jumped from less than two in 2007 to more than six in 2009, indicating that there could have been six applicants for every job opening in late 2009.

But what does that look like in the real world?  It looks like the job fair Wednesday and Thursday at a Bank of America in Anaheim. More than 1,000 people showed up on the first day alone to interview for the 200 positions available.

The fair was for support staff for the new stage show "Battle of the Dance," which was looking for people to work as servers, bartenders, cashiers and reservations agents. The line on Wednesday circled the building, as the unemployed waited patiently, leaning on cars, chatting with friends, filling out applications.

For an hour or two of waiting, they got a five- or 10-minute interview, with the promise that some of the lucky ones would get called back for another round of interviews. Inside, as bank customers went about their business, applicants were led to one of four tables, where interviewers sat next to stacks of applications.

"I don't know if it was worth it. I waited for two hours," said Joseph Meza, a Santa Ana resident who waited in line with two friends to apply for a job as a server. His previous experience: welding.

The applicants ranged from the ancient to new entrants to the job market. Some said they were homeless and desperate for work. Others said they already were working a part-time job but needed another to make ends meet.

Few were as optimistic as Jannette Villanueva, 19, who quit a part-time job in retail to move to Las Vegas but now was back in Santa Ana, living with her family.

"I have to be patient," she said.

Most of the applicants sounded more like Aditya Thakar, of Anaheim, who was working 20 hours a week as a server and said he could barely pay the bills.

"I'll take anything," he said. "I don't mind working hard."

-- Alana Semuels

Photo: Applicants wait in line at a job fair for support staff for a new stage show. Credit: Sandra Brown