Groton — For four hours Tuesday, job-seekers streamed in and out of the Groton Inn & Suites. They filled out forms, dropped off resumes, chatted up recruiters — and crossed their fingers.
The lucky ones will hear from one of the 16 companies that staffed exhibits at a job fair hosted by The Day.
By all accounts, the turnout was surprisingly big, a circumstance many referred to as both the good news and the bad news inasmuch as it was a reflection of the region's stubbornly high unemployment rate. When it was over, organizers estimated nearly 800 people had attended.
U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, surveyed the scene at mid-morning.
"The numbers speak for themselves," he said. "The supply outstrips the number of openings. It's the same picture we saw about a year ago at a fair up in Norwich, though clearly, part of the group here is people who are working and who want to do better.
"It shows that the economy and jobs should be the No. 1 focus (in Washington)."
Courtney said that despite the "turbulence" in employment at Electric Boat, which has announced about 250 layoffs in recent months, the submarine builder remains "fundamentally strong." Throughout the event, skilled job hopefuls lined up at the company's table.
Mohegan Sun also drew considerable interest. Patrycja Rogers, an employment specialist with the Uncasville casino, said it had nearly 200 positions to fill, about 75 percent of them part-time.
Foxwoods Resort Casino also manned a table, as did one of its third-party vendors, Marshall Retail Group, which debuted three stores in Foxwoods in late June — two apparel outlets and a specialty candy shop.
Lee D'Angelis, an MRG office manager, said she had openings for a store manager, an assistant manager and a half-dozen sales associates. She said the job fair was the best attended of any she's seen in her nine years with the Atlantic City, N.J.-based company.
U.S. Foods, a national food-service distributor with a location in Norwich, was looking to hire truck drivers, credit coordinators and customer-service representatives, according to Tina Rice, a human resources manager.
"We've been experiencing quite a bit of growth," she said. "Truck drivers are the hardest to find."
Some job-seekers expressed frustration at the healthy turnout.
"The lines were so long, it was kind of discouraging," Shane Gulick, of Groton, said as he returned to the hotel parking lot. A former WXLM radio show host laid off by Cumulus Media in mid-July, Gulick said the fair didn't offer much in the way of media opportunities, but that he did talk to a Foxwoods representative about "something in event marketing."
While he'd like to stay in broadcasting, he said he knows he has to keep his options open.
Elizabeth Schramm, a Stonington woman who's been out of work for more than 18 months, said she came to the job fair — her first — hoping to meet people face-to-face and perhaps land an interview.
"All the applications are online," she said.
A Groton man who asked to remain anonymous said he was laid off last week by a Groton manufacturer.
"After 30 years, I don't have a clue (about job-hunting)," he said. "But I'm not waiting around."