More than 200 attend hiring event at Capital Mall in west Olympia

Hundreds of job seekers came looking for work Thursday — yet another reminder that the improving economy hasn’t met the needs of all those in search of employment.

Thursday’s job fair was billed as the South Sound Hiring Event, which was organized by Thurston County WorkSource, the Thurston County Chamber of Commerce, Pacific Mountain Workforce Development Council and Capital Mall, which hosted the job fair from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The event attracted 23 employers, such as Costco, Great Wolf Lodge and The Home Depot, and approximately 250 job hunters by 1 p.m., said Debbie Burk, a business-to-business representative who works at the chamber.

A group of people arrived early and were waiting before the job fair started at 10 a.m., she said.

Washington’s economy has largely roared back from the Great Recession, but most of that job growth has taken place in King and Snohomish counties, which are home to several major employers. Growth elsewhere in the state hasn’t been as strong.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for the Seattle-Bellevue-Everett area was 4.5 percent in March, according to state Employment Security Department data.

County-level jobless data for March won’t be released until April 21, but in February Thurston County’s jobless rate was 7.2 percent.

Job seeker Troy Mead, 22, of Olympia, who recently graduated from The Evergreen State College with a degree in zoology and environmental science, still is trying to find work after finishing his last class in the fall. Mead has some work experience, but he attributes his lack of job to an economy that is still picking up.

Becky Russell, 38, of Lacey, recently left a job after working in customer service for more than 20 years. She took a two-month break, but now regrets that decision because of the job market she’s facing.

One prospective employer told her that she had “too many skills,” which she thought was an odd way to turn someone down for a job.

She’s also adjusting to being interviewed because she’s used to interviewing prospective employees. “I’m not used to being on the other end,” she said.

Terry Mauer, 50, of Lacey, who has experience in outside sales, also is looking for work. He said the economy is in much better shape now than 2 1/2 years ago when he was unemployed for eight months.

Meanwhile, the Costco Wholesale booth was a popular destination for job seekers, said Lawton Hood, who works in marketing at the Costco in Tumwater.

During his time at the hiring event he had collected 60 to 70 resumes, he said.

Why is Costco so popular? Hood can speak from experience.

Seven years ago, Hood was an entry-level employee at Costco, making $11 per hour pushing shopping carts and cleaning up the meat department, he said. Now he earns $23.05 per hour, Hood said.