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Retailers Plan for Thousands of Hires in O.C. : Stores: Employment Development Department has been screening applications for Wal-Mart, Kmart, Ross Dress for Less and Mervyn's.


While shoppers prepare for the upcoming Christmas rush, major retailers are looking to staff thousands of new jobs as they establish or expand their Orange County operations.

During the past week, nearly 1,400 applicants have lined up at the state Employment Development Department, which is helping Wal-Mart screen employment candidates for a store it will open early next year at Anaheim Plaza. Applications will be accepted through Friday at the EDD office on Gene Autry Way near Anaheim Stadium.

In October, EDD helped to screen nearly 800 applicants for jobs as sales clerks and cashiers, at Ross Dress for Less, Mervyn's and several other Anaheim Plaza stores. EDD also helped to process 3,000 applications for an estimated 687 full- and part-time jobs at a Kmart Superstore that will open Friday in Anaheim Hills. The three Wal-Mart stores planned in Orange County each will hire about 300 employees, according to EDD officials.

Interest in the retailing jobs is high because "while they might not all be high-paying or full-time jobs, many of them do have good benefits," said Eleanor Jordan, a labor market analyst with EDD in Santa Ana.

A good number of applicants in line on Monday at the state office said that they were interested in working for Wal-Mart because of favorable experiences as shoppers.

"What the company says is true," said Carla Price, a 22-year-old Anaheim resident. "They are better than most retailers. They're friendlier to customers, they obviously care about the customers."

Jerry Castillo, 25, was at the state office on Monday to seek jobless benefits after being laid off from his seasonal job at JC Penney. He filled out the jobless forms and then got in line to try for a position at Wal-Mart. "I just hope they don't call me at (the benefits window) when I'm talking to Wal-Mart," Castillo said.

Other applicants, including a 22-year-old Anaheim resident who asked not to be identified, view Wal-Mart as a way to improve their job prospects. "I've got nowhere to go where I am now," said the clerical worker, who skipped work Monday to interview with Wal-Mart. "I have no chance to be promoted; I'm just there. Wal-Mart is a big store with lots of opportunities."

Arnie Nelius, a 51-year-old Orange resident who recently was let go by an automobile dealership, said he is attracted by Wal-Mart's "sense of teamwork. I've talked to employees in Wal-Mart's Corona store and it's like a family."

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