SALEM — With jobs hard to find, more people than usual have asked to return for another summer of work at Canobie Lake Park.

"This year, I think more than any year, we're seeing a lot more employees or cast members asking to come back into the mix," park spokesman Chris Nicoli said.

The park began its hiring process in December by contacting all the employees it wants to return. In March, it opened its personnel office and began receiving applications online. Nicoli said they have been receiving between 10 and 30 applications a day since March 1.

The park employs just over 1,000 people a season, Nicoli said. Typically, between one-third and half of the previous season's employees return. This year, the park already has more than half of last year's employees returning.

For the most part, Nicoli said, the applicant pool has not changed much. He said the park is not seeing many overqualified employees seeking summer work. Instead, it's just a higher volume of the usual crowd: college and high-school students.

"I think some of the other jobs they may have been able to go out and apply for may be filled by people at other levels of qualifications," he said.

Nicoli said, generally, people looking for full-time, long-term work do not apply.

"We also get a lot of retirees," he said. "People who just want to come out a couple days a week."

The park will host its first job fair Saturday, and Nicoli said he hopes many college students will be home for the Easter holiday so they can visit. It will host another job fair May 18. He said the park employs many students who work throughout their high-school and college years.

"It's much more difficult for those looking for full-time employment because it is only seasonal," he said. "But our season keeps increasing."

Nicoli said winter seems shorter each year; the park now stays open on weekends through October.

"It lets them stay at work a little bit longer," he said. "Employee-wise, we got some great feedback for opening for Halloween."

For those who depend on seasonal work, staying at Canobie until the end of October can be a big help, he said.

"Our hiring season dovetails almost perfectly with the holiday retail season," Nicoli said. "That's when all the stores in the malls need the most help."

The job fair Saturday will be at the park from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The May 18 job fair is at the park from 1 to 6 p.m. People also can apply online at www.canobie.com. Opening day is April 24.

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