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Now Hiring: Finding a Job in a Recession

Ylan Mui

As of this week, Marcus Ozuna of the District can officially get off unemployment.

He is one of about 330 people hired to work at the new W Hotel in Washington, one of the few companies actually hiring during this economic downturn. The competition was brutal: Ten thousand people filled out job applications.

I ran into Marcus yesterday morning during an orientation for the new employees in Pershing Park. He is an acquaintance, but I hadn't seen him around lately. I found out why yesterday:

He was laid off four months ago from his job at a furniture dealer that was hit hard by the economic downturn. He helped make ends meet by waiting tables a few days a week at a local restaurant, but he wanted to find a full-time job. He'll now be tending the bar on the legendary roof deck of the old Hotel Washington, which the W has taken over. From the bar, you can watch President Obama getting off his helicopter.

Several folks at the orientation had similar stories. Scott Gordon of Crofton was hired to the W's engineering staff. He got laid off from his job after 18 years when the company reduced the staff three months ago. He found the W listing on his union's Web site.

"There were open jobs but a lot of applicants," he said.

His coworkers Brian Ferguson and Philip Kline came on board after working for a contractor that did the plumbing at the hotel. Their old company had laid off 90 people since Christmas, and they saw the writing on the wall. When the offer from the W came, "I didn't have to think twice about it," Philip said.

Edward Baten, the hotel's general manager, said he typically gets about 5,000 applicants at a new property. But 10,000 resumes was overwhelming. That means only 3.3 percent were hired -- a tougher admissions standard than at Harvard.

The hotel pulled out all the stops for orientation for that 3 percent. Thumping techno music filled Pershing Park early in the morning to pump up employees. An Abraham Lincoln impersonator walked around on stilts, just for fun.

And inside the hotel, a hunky George Washington posed for paparazzi-style photos with employees. Now that's how I want to celebrate finding a job!

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By Ylan Mui  |  June 24, 2009; 7:01 AM ET
Categories:  Unemployment , Ylan Q. Mui  
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