Line of "Forever 21" job applicants gets longer

FRESNO, California

"I'm out here looking for a job, just like everybody else."

The tough job market makes it a struggle for unemployed mechanics, like Christoper Whited, to students like Charlene Torres.

"I'm looking for a job here, but I'm open to any other job, I'm still hunting."

But as the numbers show, the competition is tough, and the immediate outlook isn't much better.

Steve Gutierez of the Employment Development Department said; "For the month of November our unemployment rate was 16.9 and it looks like it's going to increase throughout the winter."

The additional hiring at Forever 21 will do little to offset the seasonal layoffs at other retailers.

Just a few miles East on Shaw Avenue another employer, Ryla, is expected to add 50 or 60 workers to its call center, where just weeks ago, hundreds lined up to apply. But those gains in the local job market are offset by Sony's decision to shut down a Fresno distribution center in March, cutting about 60 jobs.

Steve Geil, CEO of the Fresno Economic Development Corporation see's hope. He believes the national economy is stabilizing, thanks to a continuation of tax cuts, and increased lending by banks. He sees a slow expansion in jobs and business.

"This is not a short term change that's going to happen but you will see people start to hire because they can do some long range forecasting. "

That's not much immediate help to folks like Merri Flores Ruiz who was laid off after 20 years as a dental technician. "The job market's not good. Not for my field anyway. But I'm willing to change my field if I could."

Anyone looking for work right now has to be flexible, and optimistic in the face of all the competition. Looking at the line of at least three hundred applicants at the Forever 21 job fair, Charlene Torres said of her interview; "I was a little nervous, but I think I can get it."

The Forever 21 job fair continues through Thursday.

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