A STAGGERING 1,500 people have applied for just 50 jobs in a department store as the recession leaves thousands in The News region desperate for work.
The jobs were advertised for a new Debenhams store in Fareham, which is due to be opened at Fareham Shopping Centre in the summer.
Details of the response came in a week when it was revealed that unemployment in the UK has reached a 17-year high.
And experts say it shows just how competitive the job market is as the economic slump bites.
Debenhams manager Andrew Birt said he was stunned by the response.
He added: ‘We are absolutely staggered by the number of people who have applied for jobs at our new store and would like to thank everyone who has taken the time to apply so far.
‘The standard of applicants is very high.’
The Office of National Statistics figures says there are 11,369 people claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance in Hampshire – up 443 from the previous month.
And that means there are now a huge number of people competing for a place whenever a chance of employment comes up.
The situation with the Debenhams store was echoed in Havant when the newly-refurbished Tesco Express recently reopened and 2,000 people applied for only 250 vacancies.
And, when Havant Borough Council advertised for rubbish collectors, the authority received 200 applications for only two jobs.
Peter Reed-Forrester, of CommunityUK based at Langstone Technology Park, said retail jobs were particularly sought after by people who have lost work elsewhere.
‘This is happening right across the board,’ he said.
‘There are jobs out there to be had. What we have here in this case is that the jobs at Debenhams are for people with a certain skill set.
‘A lot of jobs in our manufacturing industries, for example, require a set of skills that people in this area might not have. For them, the retail jobs are right up their street.’
The unemployment statistics have come as a surprise to the Hampshire Chamber of Commerce.
Members there say they are optimistic that the economic outlook might not be as bad as those figures suggest. A survey carried out by the chamber showed 28 per cent of its respondents were increasing their workforce, compared with 15 per cent in the final quarter of 2010.
Nicholas Hoath, who is based in the chamber’s Portsmouth office, said: ‘There seems to be a lot more optimism coming from our members, and the current unemployment statistics do not really reflect that.’