Thousands of job seekers attend Woodland Hills job fair

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A day after the U.S. Labor Department released a surprisingly positive jobs report, a crowd of 3,000 people showed up at a Woodland Hills job fair.

Saturday's Ready-Set-Earn Career Expo was organized by the West Valley Occupational Center, a career technical school in Woodland Hills. Thousands of people went to the fair to meet with 45 employers, ranging from Panda Express to the Los Angeles Police Department.

Job hopefuls more hopeful

Girlie Apolista was eager to find a job. Apolista was laid off in 2011 after working as a dental assistant for 10 years.

“I believe this time, hiring is already picking up,” Apolista said. “Hopefully I will get a job soon.”

Unemployed workers like Apolista became more hopeful to find jobs after Friday's labor report that showed the national unemployment rate in February dropped to 7.7 percent, the lowest since December 2008. California’s unemployment rate was 9.8 percent in December.

Kathy McBean, who oversaw the career expo, said it's wonderful that the national unemployment rate is falling. 

“That’s what we’re all here for and that’s what everyone in the community is working together for," McBean said.

Hundreds of jobs, but near minimum wage

At the fair, job seekers walked up to company booths with their resumes. There were also educational workshops and a “Dress for Success” fashion show.

The job openings varied from booth to booth. For example, the Los Angeles Police Department said it plans to hire 250 to 300 people during the fiscal year. Meanwhile, Home Depot said it plans hire 100 lot attendants, sales representatives and cashiers at local stores. Pay for those jobs ranges from $8.25 to $10.25 an hour.

Louis Vidaurri, 51, has been unemployed since September. He once made $60,000 a year working as a counselor helping families with funeral arrangements, but was laid off in 2008. Then, he worked as a sales representative for Danmer Custom Shutters at nearly $15 an hour, only to be let go because of economic reasons.

He’s applied to 40 jobs so far, but he’s been discouraged that some of the openings he's seen has been for $8 an hour jobs with no health benefits.

“You can’t survive on that,” Vidaurri said. “It makes me stay on unemployment. It doesn’t make sense that you make more money in unemployment than you do if you work.”

He planned to meet with more job recruiters at the fair.

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