No fewer than 5,000 people lined up at Festival Hall to interview for jobs with 11 companies.
The turnout yesterday surprised some employers, who ran out of informational brochures early in the day.
"It's been real busy," said Jackie Johnson, a recruiter for Church Hospital. "We're out of the supplies we brought with us."
The two-day job fair is being sponsored by the Baltimore Sun and the Maryland Department of Employment and Economic Development. Yesterday, companies seeking clerical and professional workers interviewed candidates. The free fair continues today from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Quality Inn in Towson, with 18 health-care companies scheduled to participate.
William Bodie, a coordinator with DEED's Office of Employment Services, said officials originally had hoped that 50 companies would participate in the fair, but economic uncertainties drastically reduced that number.
"A lot of companies are in hiring freezes," he said.
The age, experience, education and interests of the job seekers varied widely. Bodie and others estimated that about half of them already had jobs and were looking to change.
They lined up at tables in the cavernous hall or sat on the sides filling out job applications. A number of people stood waiting their turns at the new job bank computers provided by Maryland Job Services, an employment arm of DEED.
Among the most popular employers with job seekers was USF&G Corp. which has 57 clerical openings.
Amy Carrick, a recruiter with the company, said that USF&G ran out of its 300 brochures before noon. She estimated that the company interviewed more than 500 people yesterday.
"It's been a complete mix of everything," she said, describing the applicants.
Quite a number of job hunters were government workers who are fearful that they will lose their jobs, she said.
Barbara Sydnor, 58, was among those standing in line to speak with the USF&G recruiters. A former secretary for the Homewood Hospital Center, she said she has been looking for work for three months. "I've left a lot of resumes and filled out a lot of applications," she said. "Maybe they think I'm over the hill. I hope not."
Rick Whitney, 32, was looking for work after deciding to give up his pursuit of a doctorate in engineering. He stood in line to interview with Bell Atlantic Mobile Systems, which was looking for a sales representative.
He said he was disappointed that more companies did not attend. "If I knew there would be these few, I wouldn't have come."
While most job applicants said they had read about the job fair in the newspaper, Mark Griedinger was walking by Festival Hall with his 16-month-old son when he saw the sign on the building advertising the fair.
He stood in line holding his son and waiting to talk to recruiters from W.R. Grace & Co.
Griedinger, 26, had recently finished law school and was looking to work in environmental law. "They must have a general counsel somewhere," he speculated.
In some cases, job seekers ran into their co-workers. Two clerical workers facing layoffs from a company they declined to identify found themselves standing in line together at the USF&G table. A moment later, a third woman from their company joined them and the three giggled nervously at their predicament.
One of them said she was going to take job-hunting information back to the others at their office.