SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — As stores start to gear up for the holiday shopping season, retailers are hoping to find more workers, but few showed up to apply during a job fair at one of the Bay Area’s largest malls.

Westfield Valley Fair Mall held a job fair Wednesday afternoon to try to help the stores and restaurants there find more workers.

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More than a dozen hiring managers sat ready to interview interested applicants, but they told KPIX 5 that few applicants showed up.

Job Fair at Westfield Valley Fair shopping mall on September 29, 2021. (CBS)

Job Fair at Westfield Valley Fair shopping mall on September 29, 2021. (CBS)

Alyssa Castrejon is one of only a few dozen people who came to look for a job.

“Flexible hours maybe, for like sports and extracurriculars,” she said as she described the kind of job she wanted.

Castrejon, a junior in high school, is looking for something part-time. “Maybe not too chaotic. More like a chill place to work,” she said.

For the most part, representatives from the mall shops and restaurants said it was slow.

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When KPIX 5 asked Planet Beauty Senior Manager Alexis Anaya how many applicants showed up. She said, “zero”.

The regional manager for Bamboo Sushi, Bethany Thompson, said, “We’ve seen a lot of foot traffic, but nobody really stopping by.”

Economic experts say that’s surprising, considering California’s unemployment rate is staying steady, around 7.5%.

“I think we will see a greater return to work over the next couple months,” said Michael Bernick, former director of the Employment Development Department.

Bernick said while the majority of people on unemployment saw their benefits run out on September 4, that’s not the only factor at play. He said workers faced added challenges during the pandemic, like transportation, health concerns, and child care.

“This is a very different situation, again, than we’ve seen in previous recessions and recoveries,” said Bernick, who is now an employment attorney with Duane Morris.

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Many stores are now offering hiring bonuses or referral bonuses to try to attract new workers. Others are offering huge retail discounts for employees in an effort to entice them to work through the holidays.