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Seasonal hiring begins upswing.

Byline: Sherri Buri McDonald The Register-Guard

Winter is still several months away, but area retailers, ski resorts and call centers already have begun the push to recruit seasonal workers.

About a dozen employers, including Comcast, GloryBee Foods, Gottschalks, the Hilton, Pentagon Federal Credit Union, Victoria's Secret and Willamette Pass, set up booths Wednesday at a holiday job fair at the Eugene branch of the state Employment Department.

For the past five years, private employment in the Eugene-Springfield area has gained an average of 600 jobs between September and December, said Michael Meyers, work force analyst with the department.

Most of those job gains are seasonal and in retail trade or in business and professional services, he said. Meyers predicted that local employers would add fewer jobs this holiday season compared with last year because of the generally slower pace of job growth so far this year.

Several hundred job seekers - some clad in jeans and T-shirts, others in dark suits and ties - moved from booth to booth, making introductions, asking questions and collecting applications.

Employers and jobseekers said they were grateful for the opportunity to get to know one another.

"It's a great venue for getting out and seeing a lot of people at once," said Chuck Harvison, manager of the Gottschalks at Valley River Center in Eugene. The store plans to beef up its 100-person work force by 40 to 80 people this holiday season.

The job fair "is a very good way to do this," said Patricia Boydston, manager of Harry & David's seasonal call center in downtown Eugene. "I like the face-to face contact better than the phone."

The company, which sells fruit baskets and other holiday goodies online and through its catalogs, plans to hire 1,600 employees to handle the crush of customer orders from Thanksgiving to Christmas. Typically 500 to 600 former employees return each season, and the rest are new hires, Boydston said.

Donna Miller, 65, a job seeker who lives in Eugene, said she

welcomed the opportunity to talk directly to Boydston and another company rep- resentative.

"I liked the two who were there," Miller said. "It was a hit. It sounds like a fun thing to do. I love to talk to people on the phone, and I buy Harry & David products myself because they're so good."

Miller said she's looking for part-time seasonal work in the mornings, so she can continue to take evening classes at Lane Community College to prepare for her real estate license exam.

Other job seekers said they wanted regular, full-time work, but were willing to consider a seasonal job while they continued to look.

Nicholas Gall, 37, of Eugene, has worked in call centers, in retail, and most recently as a florist. He picked up applications for numerous employers, including Harry & David, health insurer PacificSource, Professional Credit Service - a collections service - and the Hilton.

"When I looked down the list (of employers), I thought these are great opportunities," he said.

Some of the employers weren't at the job fair just to find seasonal workers. GloryBee Foods, a natural foods producer and distributor, and the Hilton both said their openings were for regular, full-time positions.

"This gets a lot of people with our application in their hands in a short amount of time, and we can hire very quickly from these types of fairs," said Jennifer Shequin, the Hilton's human resources director. The Hilton is hiring for 18 positions, from housekeepers to cooks.

The Workforce Network Oregon Employment Department revived its holiday job fair this year after a three-year absence.

"It's something we see a value in doing, and that's why it's being brought back and why we're doing it this year," Meyers said.

He said the department is planning another job fair on Feb. 20, which probably will focus on outdoor-related jobs, such as construction and recreation.
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Title Annotation:Business; Employers gather at a job fair in search of this year's holiday workers - and some full-time employees
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Sep 27, 2007
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