By John Toole
---- — DERRY — Employment seekers packed a state job fair downtown yesterday, pursuing nearly 600 available positions.
“It is jammed,” New Hampshire Employment Security program specialist Shirley Hall said about halfway through the four-hour fair.
Job hunters left few spaces open in the parking lot at the Marion Gerrish Community Center on West Broadway.
“We have had about 200 people,” Hall said.
About 40 companies came to Derry to recruit for more than 585 jobs.
“There are a lot of jobs out there,” said Pamela Szacik, director of the state’s Employment Services Bureau.
Szacik estimated 15 percent of attendees would find work through a job fair.
“That’s not as good as we’d like, but we’ll take it,” she said.
Yesterday’s fair came less than a week after a report predicted New Hampshire would finally see employment reach pre-recession levels next spring.
Recruiters liked what they saw.
“People seem prepared, they have their resumes and they are eager to work,” said Sara Boots, a human resources specialist with MAS Home Care of New Hampshire.
The company provides home-based health care services for the elderly and chronically ill. Boots said they are always looking for help.
“We’re growing,” she said. “Home care is a growing industry because of the Baby Boomer generation.”
People who could not make the job fair in Derry can apply for positions through the company website, she said.
FedEx human resources generalist Dianne Esposito said the company was filling seasonal jobs paying $10.82 an hour in Londonderry and Manchester.
“I’ve had some really good conversations,” she said. “Hopefully, people will come and sign up with us.”
Advance Auto Parts was ramping up employment for new stores coming online in New Hampshire.
“We have one opening in Laconia next week and three more cities in New Hampshire,” said Carla Privitera, general manager with the company’s Exeter store.
Advance usually employes nine to 11 people at stores and pay varies with experience and market, she said.
The company is open to hiring people from other fields with the right skills and will train them, she said.
The turnout impressed Privitera.
“I was not expecting this many people today,” she said. “It’s awesome.”
James Risley of Derry said he was being flexible after three months looking for work.
“Mostly, I’m looking for laboring or a desk job,” Risley said.
Risley said he was a little bit encouraged by job prospects lately and pleased with what he was hearing.
“People were very nice here,” Risley said.
Dave Paquette of Atkinson was trying to find his way back to work after extended time among the unemployed.
“I’ve been out two years and I’m at the point where I’m wondering do I want to retire early or go back to work,” he said.
Paquette’s background involves 30 years in high tech, but it was a tax preparer position with Jackson Hewitt that got his attention.
“You come in for one thing and you see others,” Paquette said.
Grandmother Alice Szalay of Derry was looking to get back to work after three months.
She said her background is in warehouse, office work and taking care of children. Her granddaughter accompanied her yesterday.
“Easter Seals caught my eye and FedEx, too,” Szalay said as she made the rounds of recruiters.
Many, but not all, job seekers dressed well for the occasion. They had handfuls of resumes.
Szacik said those are important things, as well as the information to complete an application.
“They need to come and introduce themselves,” she said.
She underscored the importance of one-on-one discussions between recruiters and job hunters that can lead to a formal interview.
She said job seekers have to have their 30-second introductory speech ready for their first contact with an employer.
Good impressions were being made.
“Several employers are very interested in individuals,” Hall said.
Express Employment human relations assistant Danielle Roller said there are opportunities for job seekers.
“There are always openings for people with the right background,” she said.
Angela DelOrfano of Derry is a former bank executive who said it has been challenging to find that type of work.
“I’ve had only four interviews since February,” she said.
She’s willing to move outside financial services because she said her skills are very transferable.
“But I’m being told I’m overqualified for the positions I’m going for,” DelOrfano said.
Sean Bailey of Derry was fresh off a stint with security at Screeemfest at Canobie Lake Park.
“I’m looking for a job in security or delivery,” he said. “Something along those lines would be phenomenal.”
Tyler Lundstrom of Concord has been looking for about a month. His background is in engineering and automotive work.
“I’m trying to find something close to my profession, something long term,” Lundstrom said.