Sherwood Ellis said he would take any work he could get.
A month after he lost a lucrative job as a dump truck driver, Ellis said he even would take an entry-level job, as long as it meant money coming in to pay for his new house and a baby on the way.
It was a sober sort of comment shared repeatedly yesterday, as hundreds of job seekers converged on the still-unfinished Lansdowne Conference Resort in Loudoun County to vie for about 400 new hotel jobs.
"You don't take a job for granted in 1991," said Ellis, 28, of eastern Loudoun, who hopes to become a bellhop. "Everything was going great and then it went downhill. Nobody is hiring now because nobody has any work."
Construction workers, computer specialists, real estate agents and business executives streamed through a vast unfinished room from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. to vie for jobs that would pay between $5 an hour and $20 an hour.
They wore business suits and expensive shoes, sweatshirts and soiled work boots, and they came from Maryland, West Virginia, the District and Northern Virginia. Even people building the center are applying because they fear they won't be able to find work when the project is finished.
As they waited for interviews, some job seekers sat quietly at tables. Some filled out applications as though they were taking a test. Others stared into the corners of the room. In all, it was a subdued day.
"I'm trying to be flexible," said Tom Chase, 51, of Leesburg, dressed in a business suit and tie. In September, he left a computer job at Boeing Co. after nine years. "The main thing for anyone is not to let the depression permeate your being."
Lansdowne executives, who plan to open the $82 million hotel and golf course in eastern Loudoun next month, said they expect at least 2,000 people to apply for 435 bellhop, kitchen, maintenance, athletic and administrative jobs. The job fair, which continues today and ends tomorrow at 7 p.m., attracted nearly 600 applicants on the first day.
Because an economic downturn has gripped the Washington region, the turnout yesterday did not come as a surprise. The region's unemployment figures, which continue to rise, jumped from 53,900 in November 1989 to 82,800 in November 1990. Northern Virginia alone lost nearly 11,000 jobs in the same period, according to the Virginia Employment Commission.
Peggy Horoff lost her job as a purchasing agent at Garfinckel's department store on June 21, when the venerable Garfinckel's chain filed for bankruptcy. Horoff, who put her age at over 45, said she has been looking for work since. It is a struggle she never expected.
"It was very traumatic. You go through the depression stage. You feel worthless," said Horoff, of Fairfax, who was dressed in a business suit and carried a leather notebook. "I'm trying to think very positively."
Harry Lafollette, 37, a dairy worker from western Loudoun, said a combination of rising taxes and falling milk prices cost him his job last fall as a milker at Whitehall Farm, a Loudoun County dairy. The farm sold its herd because it wasn't profitable any more, he said.
"I'm always nervous about getting new work, but I need work," said Lafollette, who has two children and would consider doing maintenance work. "I've got a part-time job, but that's it."
It seemed construction workers were everywhere.
Charles Thornton, 24, of Sterling, lost his job as a backhoe operator last year. He has two children and a growing pile of bills to pay, he said. Thornton said he would take anything at the conference center.
"I just need work," he said. "This is a change. But hey, you've got to take what you can get."
Leroy Holland, 41, waiting for his first interview of the day, was taking a second look at the bellhop uniforms on display.
"I never envisioned looking for the hospitality type work," said Holland, a Sterling resident who had made his living as a truck driver or heavy equipment operator. "It's almost virtually impossible to find a job."