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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, September 20, 2004

Job-seekers call the shots

By Dan Nakaso
Advertiser Staff Writer

Beth Busch had hoped to get maybe 75 recruiters for tomorrow's Job Quest job fair during a traditionally slow season for hiring.


WHEN: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. tomorrow

WHERE: Neal Blaisdell Center

COST: $1; students, 50 cents with valid school ID

PRE-REGISTER: www.successhi.com


SPONSORED BY: Success Advertising and Oahu WorkLinks

Instead, a record number of employers for the fall job fair — at least 125 — will compete for workers in an exceptionally tight job market. Hawai'i had the lowest unemployment rate in the country in July at 3 percent.

"This will be the most recruiters we've ever had for a fall job fair," said Busch, one of the organizers of the job fair at the Neal Blaisdell Center. "It's that low-unemployment, job-seekers market."

Busch expects 5,000 job candidates to attend, many who are already employed and curious about finding better jobs.

Honolulu's job fairs typically serve as a measure of the larger economy, and tomorrow's Job Quest is full of encouraging signs.

Hotels and tourist-oriented businesses that disappeared from job fairs after Sept. 11 are now looking for hundreds of workers. And many retailers are coming for the first time.

"People are really anticipating a good holiday season," Busch said. "That's a good sign."

The state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations has predicted that Hawai'i's low unemployment rate will continue through the end of the year.

Joe Tillotson, personnel manager at The Wackenhut Corp. security firm, has already been to five job fairs this year — more than usual — and is setting up a booth for the first time at Job Quest.

"With the job market as tight as it is, we've been entering more and more job fairs," Tillotson said.

Wackenhut needs 40 to 50 people, mostly security officers, and hopes to expand its workforce to 650 employees.

The increased demand comes from several factors: losing good workers to the Honolulu Police Department, Honolulu Fire Department and military deployments, and some, such as University of Hawai'i football players, to college, Tillotson said.

At the same time, Wackenhut has expanded its roster of clients to include new contracts at places such as Hanauma Bay and the USS Arizona Memorial.

Like other security companies, Wackenhut has received much more business since Sept. 11.

Because of the job-seekers' market, Wackenhut has had to increase its pay by 10 percent — to salaries that now range from $7 an hour to $13 an hour.

"It's gotten much harder to find people in an atmosphere like Hawai'i because there are so many good jobs out there in the tourism industry, in government and all across the spectrum. Everybody needs people," Tillotson said.

Clothing retailer Tori Richard has never been to job fairs before.

But company officials felt they needed to do something different to recruit workers for their fourth store, which is scheduled to open at Ala Moana Center at the end of October.

So Tori Richard recruiters signed up for a booth at Job Quest to look for four managers and up to 15 part-time sales associates.

Lauren Moder, who has the title of "shopkeeper" at Tori Richard, worries that Tori Richard may be a little behind, because other retailers at Ala Moana have been recruiting for months.

"The economy's up, more businesses are opening and you have a limited labor pool," Moder said. "If you're looking for a high-caliber, experienced, quality applicant, you're definitely in a competitive situation."

Reach Dan Nakaso at dnakaso@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8085.