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Job applicants face stiff competition



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SALT LAKE CITY -- The latest employment report for Utah will be released on Thursday. But behind the unemployment rate are other numbers of concern to people looking for work--such as the number of people who want the same job that they want.

That number has human faces, like Ben Gustafson's. He is feeling pretty good this week. He has just been hired as a teller at Wells Fargo Bank.

"It's a really big relief," Gustafson said. "I mean, you go through a lot of work to go through the process of applying and a lot of stress of wondering if it's ever going to come."

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While Gustafson is glad the job came through for him, thousands of others, like Chris Ohsiek, still wait. Ohsiek has been looking for work since June.

"There's so much competition you're competing with, you don't know how many people," he said.

Actually, Gustafson has some idea of how many he was competing with for the job at Wells Fargo. Wells Fargo spokesman Mark Chapman says that in Utah, the bank is seeing an average of about 50 applicants for each job posting.

"But in urban areas, especially those close to college campuses, it wouldn't be unusual for there to be as many as 200 applicants per position," Chapman said.

Mark Knold, chief economist of Utah's Workforce Services, says that is very indicative of the tightness of the labor market.

"Two to three years ago, you could have employers who would say, 'I'm not getting anybody coming and applying for these jobs.' And now you have these huge quantities of people who are chasing one chair. And unfortunately, that's the hard part of the downturn," Knold said.

It can be brutal out there. Kim Griffiths has been looking for work in Salt Lake since March. He has redone his resume three times and visits employment offices every day.

"I didn't think it would be this hard to find a job," Griffiths said.

But he and so many others persist out of necessity, and out of the hope that the job jackpot is just one more application away.

Gustafson, Wells Fargo's new teller, counts himself lucky.

"The fact that it went so quick was just incredible. It was amazing to see that in just three days somebody's life could be turned around just that fast," Gustafson said.

And Knold says the economy is not at a standstill; companies are still hiring

"There are still good quality jobs out there," he said. Then added, "And a lot of competition."

E-mail: blindsay@ksl.com

Bruce Lindsay

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