The shrinking economy may be bad news for job hunters, but it's a boon for hiring managers who have watched the pool of applicants overflow.

The shrinking economy may be bad news for job hunters, but it's a boon for hiring managers who have watched the pool of applicants overflow.

David Pasquini, head chef at Thai Pepper, saw 50 resumés stream in over three days for two positions he posted Saturday on Craigslist. A year ago, a similar posting might have netted about 15 applicants in a month, he said.

"It's been a huge increase, not just this year but also during the wintertime in comparison to say last summer and last fall," he said. "We cut back a little bit, but we're still hiring, and with the season coming up it's been great."

Many of the candidates have restaurant qualifications, but several of the dishwashing hopefuls have backgrounds in construction or other labor positions and no restaurant experience.

At Mihama Teriyaki Grill, owner Elizabeth Takeda has seen a similar phenomenon, with both inexperienced and overqualified applicants competing for a line cook position.

"We're seeing a wider gamut definitely, seeing older people in their 40s and 50s and people who for us would probably be overqualified normally," she said.

In addition to former construction workers with no experience, applicants include high-end chefs who have been laid off or seen their hours cut at their current job. Takeda described her restaurant as a step up from fast food, not a place where top-level chefs would normally work.

"We always look for someone with mid-qualifications because if someone is overqualified, they're going to get bored," she said.

Industries outside the restaurant business are also hiring much easier these days, though with more self-selected applicants.

Health care

Linda Vista Nursing and Rehab has received an influx of nursing assistants and even certified nurses who normally shy away from long-term care facilities, said Betty Steward, director of nursing. Since posting a classified ad last week, she has received 10 or 15 phone calls and will interview at least half of the candidates.

"It's not a flood of people, but we are getting a very good response," she said. "The recession has really hit health care, both acute and long term care. All the facilities have seen a drop in census and we're seeing a lot of acute hospitals have frozen positions. They're not hiring nurses, so they're coming to long term care."

A First Choice Staffing Service & The Medical Registry, which specializes in temp-to-hire medical and clerical positions in both Ashland and Medford, has seen an increase in resumes from clerical workers from real estate, hardware and accounting companies, but only medical positions are still available, owner J.J. Moon said.

Even medical positions have declined 10 to 20 percent, but that is normal this time of year and she hopes business picks up as usual in the summer, she said. Elective surgeries are down and immediate care facilities are seeing fewer work-related injuries, she said.

Many of those out-of-work laborers have called the company looking for work, said office manager Karen Wicks.

The company has also received many more phone calls from men looking for labor positions.

"We have a lot more calls than normal, especially from men," she said. "When I tell them we do just medical and clerical they say never mind."

Manufacturing

Brammo, a company that manufactures and designs electric vehicles, has about 10 positions to fill and has averaged about 200 inquiries a week, said human resources manager Hillary Smith.

"I think it's a combination of the economy and the sector of the market that we have," she said. "We're kind of a different type of employer. There are not many people in Ashland making electric motorcycles."

The biggest hiring difficulty she has seen is a dearth of candidates with skills in lean manufacturing, a system that doesn't create the extra waste of traditional production methods. But that has been a minor concern.

"For the most part we're finding the candidates we'd like, and we're not using head hunters," she said. "We've been able to recruit."

Staff writer Julie French can be reached at 482-3456 ext. 227 or jfrench@dailytidings.com.