Job applicants stand outside of Vons on Broadway Monday hoping to land an interview. (photo by Daniel Archuleta)

DOWNTOWN — Over 100 people in suits and ties lined up in front of Vons on Monday, spilling over onto the Broadway sidewalk in hopes of snagging a job at the grocery chain.

With Los Angeles County’s unemployment rate at a staggering 12.4 percent, 3 percent higher than that of the nation as a whole, 600,000 able-bodied workers are left without a means to support themselves.

Though a Vons manager and applicants alike were surprised by the hefty turnout for job interviews, unemployment trends prove that California’s labor force is in for hard times.

It’s no wonder an open interview session for a mere 38 entry level openings in 11 Vons across Santa Monica and the Westside drew so much attention.

Openings included courtesy clerks, to be paid $8.10 per hour; general merchandise and health and beauty care clerks paid $8.20 per hour; and Starbucks employees at $9.25 per hour, according to Carlos Illingworth, Vons manager of public affairs.

Antwain Hollis, Ryan Johnson and Jabani Nantambu were three strangers who bonded while standing in line together for over an hour. The three men did not expect so much competition for a handful of job openings, and decided to distract themselves from the upcoming interviews with sports talk.

“I was excited when I first got in line,” Nantambu said, but the sun and hour-long wait did nothing to aid his spirits.

Nantambu, like many others, was vying for the position of courtesy clerk, also known as a grocery bagger. He and his two peers smiled at the glorified title.

“That’s like calling a janitor a custodial technician,” Hollis said, laughing.

Hollis said if he were hired the job would be his main source of income.

Individuals in line represented various sectors of the working class — teens as young as 17 were looking to get their first summer job, others were looking for supplemental income, and middle-aged, seasoned workers hoped to secure a steady cash flow during the economic downturn.

Of the 109 potential employees who arrived and waited for an interview, 24 interviews had to be rescheduled.

Though a few expressed preference for a position as a Starbucks barista or courtesy clerk, most people echoed the sentiments of 17-year-old Darius Samuel: “I’ll take anything.”

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