3,700 job-seekers look for work at fair

March 5, 2009 1:44:29 PM PST
A 22-year-old barely three months out of school was on the hunt for his first real job, while a 68-year-old former vice president of a chemicals company sought contract work with anyone hiring. They were just two hopefuls out of 3,720 people, many of whom stood in line for hours in the cold on 45th Street, converging on a midtown Manhattan hotel Thursday in search of employment.

The fair, sponsored by jobs Web site Monster.com, was one of a string of huge career expos held in New York in the past couple of months. There were 93 companies represented, said spokesperson AJ Goodman, and 1,000 openings for job-hunters.

For Audrey Basbas, 55, this is her third job fair this year. She has been looking for work since April, when retailer Talbots Inc., for whom she worked for six years, closed down her entire division. She has blown through all of her retirement savings, and was forced to sell her house in Boston and move in with her parents for a while.

"There's nothing left," Basbas said. "I'll be working until I'm about 100. All of this has changed my generation's goal of retiring on or about 65."

Now, she'll take almost any position, she said.

"I'm starting from scratch now...If I have to take a pay cut, I can do it," she said. "I don't need stuff, not as important anymore."

She has her fingers crossed for Macy's Inc., which was one of the employers represented at the fair - but they just laid off 7,000 people, she said. She's been talking with them since August. Macy's representative at the fair wouldn't comment on the department store's hiring goals.

One popular table, that of AQR Capital Management LLC, an investment management firm in Greenwich, Conn., said it had one position open, for an accountant.

Recruiter Meghan Baruno said she had collected hundreds of resumes.

"I'm shocked at how many people are here," she said, as men in suits elbowed each other while waiting to talk to her.

Financial-services firms abounded, but at least one was telling "overqualified" people they weren't a good match.

Wachovia, which is now owned by Wells Fargo & Co., was interested in filling 80-90 positions for tellers, financial salespeople and managers of retail shops in the tri-state area - and was turning away former investment bankers and traders, including, said representative Kristelle Goulias, a former managing director from Bank of America Corp.

Moves like that upset Ofer Gill, 29, who said it bothered him when companies wouldn't take his resume.

"Thanks for the cold shoulder," he said. He's looking for a career change after being let go by Bloomberg LP last month.

Government jobs and social services tables also garnered long waits.

Former workshop instructor Rachel Spivey, who used to teach parolees how to obtain employment, was eager to talk to a representative from Mount Sinai Hospital. The 51-year-old single mother from Brooklyn has been seeking work since November. "It's tough paying rent," she said.

Erik Bugel, 29, a former media research analyst, said that after three months of unemployment, dipping into his savings and waiting an hour and a half outside he was "just looking for anything."

"I've lost my idealism," he said while waiting on a long, winding line of black-suited men and women to talk to a single representative for online broker Charles Schwab Corp. But he remains hopeful - "I keep telling myself, this month I'm going to find a job."

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