More than 230 job seekers turned out Friday at a recruiting fair in Santa Rosa, each hoping to snag one of 50 jobs at a new Ross Dress for Less store opening in Roseland next month.
"This is a great opportunity," said Jenna Blengino, a Santa Rosa student who is looking for a part-time job while attending Santa Rosa Junior College.
"Job hunting has been pretty bad," she said. "I have a lot of unemployed friends."
More than four people applied Friday for every open position at the new Ross store, which was hiring sales associates, stock room workers, supervisors, managers and security personnel. Ross wouldn't disclose a pay range for the positions.
On Friday, job seekers filled out applications for full- and part-time positions and waited for interviews with Ross representatives at the offices of Sonoma County Job Link, a county program that offers job search, training and other employment services.
Hiring managers made 32 job offers to candidates on the spot, and others will be asked to return for more interviews, said Kathy Young, Job Link's manager.
Ross is opening its second Santa Rosa store on Oct. 8 in Stony Point Plaza, a shopping center at Sebastopol and Stony Point roads.
The Pleasanton-based discount clothing chain already has a store in Santa Rosa's Montgomery Village and two others in Rohnert Park and Petaluma.
Catherine Clark was seeking a job in security or administration. The Santa Rosa woman has been out of work for awhile, but has experience in construction, technology and office jobs.
"I've got a lot of business acumen," she said. But for now, she's just looking for secure employment. "I'd like to find something stable," Clark said.
Friday's turnout shows it's still a challenging job market, Young said. More than one in 10 workers in Sonoma County have seen their jobs disappear since 2007, the beginning of a downturn that has wiped out 21,000 local jobs and kept the unemployment rate at or near double digits for more than two years.
"People are looking for any kind of job they can get," she said.
The Ross store is one of several new retailers in the Sebastopol Road shopping center, which was targeted by Wal-Mart several years ago. Wal-Mart abandoned the project in 2009, citing delays and an unfavorable business climate.
The center is now anchored by a Food Maxx store.
Anna's Linens, which sells bedroom, bath and window furnishings, recently opened a store in the center, and another discount clothing retailer, Fallas Paredes, will have a location there soon.
Fallas Paredes will hold a job fair Monday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the new store, 2011 Sebastopol Road. It's looking for managers and sales associates.
Meanwhile, Goodwill Industries of the Redwood Empire plans to open a store in the center around Dec. 1.