By Meredith Barack

CHICAGO (CBS) — Despite unemployment claims still being filed at rates much higher than before the pandemic, many businesses say they are still struggling to hire workers, a problem evident at what was supposed to be a big job fair on Thursday at Navy Pier.

CBS 2’s Meredith Barack is Working For Chicago and witnessed a disappointing turnout for the event, seeing fewer than a dozen job seekers while at the job fair.

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Employers said it’s frustrating to see so little interest, because they have so many jobs to fill.

“When we were here in 2019, before COVID, it was amazing. I mean, we always had our stores fully staffed,” said Millie Younan, regional manager for the Navy Pier Store gift shop.

Younan said she had 10 to 15 employees between her stores before COVID. Right now, she’s barely scraping by with six.

“No one’s ever even applying, so it’s been really hard,” she said.

She was hopeful Thursday’s job fair would turn her luck around.

“I’ve been here since 12 o’clock today, and really I’ve only gotten one person coming up to apply,” Younan said.

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Younan wasn’t alone. Other employers, like Garret Popcorn, sat and waited; hoping more job seekers would show up and fill out an application.

“It’s great to see things getting back to normal, and we appreciate that, we appreciate the business, we love having people come out here to the Pier; but if we don’t have the full staff to service these people, it’s hard,” Younan said.

The few attendees there hoped the lack of others looking for a job gives them a leg up.

“This is my first time ever coming to a job fair and so far it’s been great. I mean, I felt like I had a job the first person I talked to,” Wrayccinn Griffin said.

“They actually made me feel like, it’s actually hope out there,” fellow job seeker Cam’Ron Stokes said.

Both young men are confident they’ll be employed sooner than later thanks to the event.

Younan just wishes more people were motivated like them.

“I had set up about 12 interviews last week, and out of those 12 interviews, three people showed up,” Younan said. “We’re going to have to do what we gotta do, and get the job done until we can actually find some people.”

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Some of the other places looking to hire at Navy Pier include Aramark, Potbelly, and Hornblower Cruises.

Meredith Barack