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Finding a job is hard work

by Alecia Warren
| April 15, 2010 9:00 PM

COEUR d'ALENE - The parking lot was crammed at the Kootenai County Fairgrounds on Wednesday, but no one was coming for rides and candy. They were looking for jobs. Some in suits, some in ratty jeans and halter tops, more than 4,000 flocked to the third annual Job Fair put on by the Coeur d'Alene Chamber of Commerce and the Idaho Department of Labor.

COEUR d'ALENE - The parking lot was crammed at the Kootenai County Fairgrounds on Wednesday, but no one was coming for rides and candy.

They were looking for jobs.

Some in suits, some in ratty jeans and halter tops, more than 4,000 flocked to the third annual Job Fair put on by the Coeur d'Alene Chamber of Commerce and the Idaho Department of Labor.

All carried similar tales of unemployment and a sparse job market.

"It's an employers' market. You've got to have all the bells and whistles to get someone to hire you," said Chris Kropp, still unemployed after he was laid off two months ago from Northwest Swiss. "It's very hard. Money doesn't stretch as far, yet the bills still come."

Pickings were slim at the fair, even among the 40 company booths that included retail, fast food and health care.

Many companies only had two or three positions available, some of them well out of the area.

"We do have two locations in Idaho, but none have openings at this point," said Heather Graham, spokesperson for Numerica Credit Union.

Plenty were still filling out applications for the three loan officer openings at different Washington locations, though.

"I'm sure we'll find somebody willing to commute because of the pay, which is well above minimum wage," Graham said. "We're getting a lot of people who aren't qualified, but we tend to have a lot of entry level positions, so it's good to get both sides."

Time Warner Cable had one Coeur d'Alene position for an account executive to sell cable service to local businesses.

Business Manager Kirk Hobson wasn't overwhelmed by the constant stream of people picking up information for the single position.

"I'm glad people are coming out," Hobson said. "In the past we've hired people we originally met at job fairs when jobs became available later on. So it is good to make that association in person."

Most on the other side of the booths reported that finding a job right now is exhausting.

"It's not that there are no jobs available, it's just for the amount of pay ... Someone in my particular situation can't accept anything less than $10 an hour," said Spirit Lake resident Michael Peck.

Laid off last February after 16 years with Idaho Veneer, the widower is supporting 12 and 14-year-old sons on unemployment, he said.

Peck would take any job he was qualified for, he said.

"It would be nice to have something with benefits," he said before he walked into the fairgrounds, his resumes tucked under his arm. "I'm just trying to keep a real open mind."

Couple Aaron Hefman and Rebeckah Olsen juggled their bags of applications while holding their three tots, ranging from 1 to 5 years old.

Both unemployed, they walked away with several leads on possible jobs.

"There were a few places that would work for us," said Olsen, 24, adding she was hoping to land a job at a local school. "It's so nice to have all these businesses come out and be here together."

Tim Martin, 58, was encouraged by Empire Airlines' openings for pilots and a line mechanic.

"Mechanics, that's what I did in the military," said Martin, laid off from his excavating job in December. "It's the only thing I got left."

Ericka Beckwith, out of work for a year, wasn't impressed by what the fair had to offer.

"There weren't many vendors, and some aren't even hiring," the 26-year-old said. "It's kind of ridiculous. Why are you here, then?"

With his twin 2-year-old boys in tow, Kropp said it was hard to stand out for companies among such a crowd.

"You're pushed from the back, people are cutting in front of you," the 35-year-old said. "It's hard to get one-on-one time everybody would like to have."

Still, he left the fair with a bag full of applications and company information.

"We want to have better lives for the kids," he said, adding that his wife is still working. "They're the ones who help keep me positive."

Booths at the event included ITT Tech, the National Guard and U.S. Army.

TESH was offering several summer positions, and Kootenai Health had two pharmacy positions, two CNA openings, as well as housekeeping and professional positions.

Josh Seitz, spokesman for Horizon Credit Union, said the company had three openings, two in the Spokane Valley and one in Colville, Wash.

"Most are willing to commute to Spokane Valley, but there have been no takers on Colville," Seitz said.

He was glad to see such a crowd, he said, with many submitting qualified applications.

There's always hope at a job fair, he added.

"Last year, I was laid off and came here and met a Horizon representative," Seitz said. "I ended up applying after that, and here I am."

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