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Retailer's fair draws a diversity of job seekers

Kim Leonard
| Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013, 5:14 p.m.
Sarah Mead, 22, of Bethel Park, smiles as she answers questions from Target team leaders during one of the interviews being held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Bethel Park, Thursday, January 10th, 2013. Mead and other applicants were interviewing for a job at the new Target store set to open at South Hills Village.
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Sarah Mead, 22, of Bethel Park, smiles as she answers questions from Target team leaders during one of the interviews being held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Bethel Park, Thursday, January 10th, 2013. Mead and other applicants were interviewing for a job at the new Target store set to open at South Hills Village. Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review

Sarah Mead has hunted for work since her daughter was born in October and said the market seems especially tight now.

“I've been applying at retail places in the mall and a couple pizza shops,” said Mead, of Bethel Park, on Thursday as she waited for a second interview during a job fair to hire as many as 300 workers for a new Target store at South Hills Village.

Several businesses told her they weren't hiring or that she wasn't qualified. “I need a job really bad. I have a 2-month-old, and it's time to start getting up on my feet,” said Mead, who has worked in the food and retail industries and hoped for a job on Target's sales floor.

As applicants trickled into the Crowne Plaza Hotel across from the mall through the late morning, Target representatives guided them to tables to complete paperwork, then to interview areas in meeting rooms.

By late afternoon, about 50 applicants were offered jobs at the store that will open March 10, said Jennifer Fiegel, store team leader.

About 350 people applied online, and there were about 50 walk-in applicants Thursday, she said, adding the company is on track to fill the initial 150 positions it needs to open the store. Job candidates were encouraged to apply in advance, and Target conducted prescheduled interviews at the hotel.

Target's hiring process took place amid news that more Americans than forecast filed a different type of application last week — claims for unemployment benefits. Jobless applications rose by 4,000, to a total 371,000 for the week ended Saturday. Economists expected a drop to 365,000 claims from the prior week's 367,000.

Job openings ticked up by 11,000 in November to 3.67 million, the Labor Department said. That's about 12 percent more than advertised in the same month a year ago.

In the seven-county Pittsburgh region, there were 38,541 job openings advertised online as of Thursday, according to the state Department of Labor & Industry.

But with more than 12 million people unemployed in November nationwide, that means 3.3 jobless people on average competed for each position. That's the lowest ratio since November 2008, but in a healthy economy, the balance is about 2 to 1.

Together, the two reports suggest the job market is improving in the new year at about the same slow but steady pace as in 2012.

Retail expert C. Britt Beemer said stores had no trouble filling jobs, during the holiday season or now.

“Some retailers didn't add as many jobs this year to keep their costs down,” he said, although outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. said in a report that retailers added 465,500 seasonal workers in November, the most ever.

“They'll be fine,” Beemer, of Florida-based America's Research Group, said of Target.

Patricia Gregorius of Whitehall hoped for an overnight back-room stocking position or something on the sales floor. “Pretty much anything. I'm open,” she said.

Gregorius has searched for work for a couple months after a stint as a stay-at-home mother for her three children.

“It's competitive,” she said, sizing up the jobs climate. “I'm going up against a lot of college graduates, a lot of young kids who are fresh out of school. I've been out of the work force for 15 years.”

She studied at the former Bradford School in Pittsburgh and worked in administrative and secretarial positions.

Justin Webb of Baldwin Borough worked a holiday seasonal job with United Parcel Service, which ended a week ago. He's been looking for work and happened to see a sign for the job fair while walking through the mall.

Conditions for job-seekers are tough. “I've been trying and trying, and I finally have a couple interviews set up,” said Webb, who has had a series of delivery jobs and is looking for any position with Target.

Renee Heldman of McMurray graduated from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in December and eyed a cashier's job at a Starbucks location in the store for some work experience. And Bryanna Gallucci worked at a Target in Savannah, moved to Robinson to stay with family members while her husband is deployed with the Army in Afghanistan and hoped to get a team leader position.

Marylu McKown retired 20 years ago as an accountant, moved to Florida for awhile and returned to the region five years ago. She has a small home-based business, but said the idea of working at the new Target and interacting with customers and co-workers was appealing.

She was hired for the guest service desk, part-time. “I'll be able to talk to lots of people there and help them,” the Bethel Park resident said.

Kim Leonard is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5606 or

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