Henrico job fair attracts long lines, criticism

By Andy Jenks - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - At Henrico's Deep Run High School, there was a competition that attracted a big crowd. But it's not a sporting event, nor is it anything one might call entertaining.

The competition was for a paycheck, and way of life. More than 3,000 people packed a job fair knowing full well that they outnumber the positions available.

Way in the back of a line that seems impossibly long is Amy Harmon, who worked for Circuit City until it went under.

"There's a lot of folks that need jobs, and that are willing to come on out and look for jobs," Harmon said.

Amy and everyone else lined up very early for the chance at just a few seconds of face time with potential employers.

"I was expecting this, 'cause no one has jobs, and it's starting to hit this economy real bad in Virginia," said job seeker Michael Jones.

The job fair, hosted by Rep. Eric Cantor (R, Henrico), comes at a critical time.

"When you have over 100 people in line an hour and a half before the doors open, I think indicates a real need to bring job seekers and employers together," Cantor said.

The Richmond-area unemployment rate is inching upward, slightly, to 7.6 percent, and the region's public employment center in Henrico is preparing for millions less in federal stimulus aid.

"Government spending money doesn't create jobs. This jobs fair is trying to match up people looking for employment to be hired," Cantor said.

Cantor's involvement, though, was criticized by Democrats, who pointed out that some of the industries on display benefited from stimulus money. But on this day, politics took a back seat to reality.

"I need work. Just like everybody else. There are a lot of people that need work," said job seeker Gordon Bengtson.

That's why so many say it's worth it to wait in line, and imagine the first step toward a new career.

"I just have as much chance as the next person, so I'm good," said job seeker Janet Johnson.

The job fair, which included a police presence and refreshments, was paid for with taxpayer dollars. A Cantor spokesperson was not immediately able to confirm what was spent.

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