The tightening of Hawaii's job market was clearly evident Wednesday at the state's largest job fair.
Employer turnout for the WorkForce job fair at the Neal Blaisdell Center was the strongest in more than five years, and several companies' representatives said they were recruiting at the event for the first time because they are having a difficult time finding qualified workers.
The 187 companies and government agencies that had booths at the WorkForce/JobQuest Hawaii job fair was up from 171 that turned out for the same event a year ago. It was the most since May 2008, when 240 recruiters attended. Wednesday's job fair drew 3,300 job seekers, down from 3,500 in May 2013.
The numbers reflect a continuing shift in Hawaii's labor market to one where job seekers are gaining leverage as a result of the strengthening economy.
Target, with two stores on Oahu and two on Hawaii island, decided to recruit at the job fair for the first time because traditional hiring methods were not producing enough workers to fill openings at the stores, said Kayla Kanetake, a human resources executive at Target's store in Salt Lake.
Other first-time employers at the job fair, held three times a year at the Blaisdell, included Walgreens, the Wedding Ring Shop, Pandora and Bed Bridge Jeweler.
"If you're a company like Target, you haven't needed to come to the job fair for a while because everybody needed a job and you had a list of people that were looking," said Beth Busch, executive director of WorkForce.
"But the fact that they are having to organize outside events and come to job fairs to hire, this tells you that people are stepping up their hiring."
She also said many of the job seekers are employed, but are looking to get a better job.
"These are people who, if they had a job during the recession, held onto it. Now people are feeling more secure," she said.
With business picking up, officials at Aloha Air Cargo said they are hiring for more than a half-dozen job categories, including account representative, aircraft mechanic, cargo agent and pilot. The company, which added 50 employees in August when it won a contract to carry mail for the U.S. Postal Service, is now up to 480 workers, said Michael Orozco, director of sales and marketing for Aloha Air Cargo. That compares with 350 workers two years ago, he said.
The job fair for the first time featured the use of a system called Recpass, a software tool that uses optical scanning technology to reduce paperwork and the time it takes to record information about job applicants.
About 1,000 of the job seekers at the event used the system, which allowed them to upload their resume into a database that can be accessed by employers. The job seekers were then issued a badge with a unique quick response code that employers are able to scan with an iPad to obtain the applicant's resume and contact information.
Original headline: Job seekers find no shortage of suitors
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