Fair draws 5,000 job seekers


POSTED: Thursday, May 20, 2010

Cliff Popa, a carpenter from Makaha, was one of the recent graduates looking for a break at the Workforce 2010 Job Fair.

Popa, who graduated last Thursday from a nine-month Hoomau Ke Ola drug rehabilitation program, is looking for a fresh start in Hawaii's recovering economy.

“;I've cleaned up my life,”; said Popa, who abused meth for about 20 years and got kicked out of his home before ending his addiction.

“;I'm looking for basically whatever they've got,”; he said. “;I've got four kids and a wife to support.”;

;[Preview]  Thousands flock to Honolulu job fair

From the turnout at a Workforce job fair, it's clear, there are still thousands of Hawaii residents without work.


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Finding a job in Hawaii's island economy is still tough. However, Popa and the other 5,000 or so job seekers who showed up yesterday for the event at the Blaisdell Center Exhibition Hall may find improved odds. Sponsored by Success Advertising, Oahu WorkLinks, Altres and the Honolulu Advertiser, the fair attracted its fewest job seekers in a year. As many as 6,500 attended the spring 2009 job fair following the shutdown of Aloha Airlines and ATA Airlines, said Beth Busch, president of Success Advertising, which organizes the state's two largest annual job fairs. The count dropped to 5,800 in September and to 5,300 in January, Busch said.

“;The economy is getting better and more people have work,”; she said. “;However, there's still room for improvement. There was a time when we considered 4,000 people good.”;

Another sign that Hawaii's labor market is picking up was a 20 percent increase in the number of employers exhibiting, Busch said. About 135 employers representing mainly the retail, management, clerical, education and service sectors were recruiting at the fair, she said.

“;I think some of the people who took retail jobs during the worst part of the downturn have found positions better suited to their qualifications and have left, creating new openings for others,”; Busch said.

There were even a few exhibitors from the hospitality and construction sectors, which were among the hardest hit during the recession and its aftermath, she said.

“;We haven't had any construction jobs for a few years,”; Busch said. “;And, it was nice to see the hotels start to come back.”;

Daniel Taylor, an Army combat engineer, donned a civilian suit and tie to search for job opportunities. Taylor, who will retire at the end of the year from a 25-year military career, said he was willing to make his home in Hawaii or relocate for the right civilian job.

“;I'm far more optimistic than the wife is,”; Taylor said. “;The Army has a lot of programs that help us transition out.”;

That said, Hawaii's unemployment picture still could worsen. The forecast released yesterday by the state Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism anticipates that total wage and salary jobs will drop by 0.9 percent to 592,200 for 2010. Hundreds more government-sector layoffs are expected along with about 400 job cuts due to the consolidation of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and the Honolulu Advertiser.