As construction workers hovered overhead on scaffolding, hundreds of prospective employees waited patiently outside the new Famous Dave's Legendary Pit Bar-B-Que at Gilbert's SanTan Village for a shot at a two- to three-minute interview.
The line of 350 applicants, a familiar scene that's played out time and again around the Valley since the start the recession, stretched down the road. People like Queen Creek resident Will Ralls stood patiently with applications in-hand waiting talk to someone about filling 130 positions at the restaurant.
"Gainful employment of some sort," was how Ralls described the position he wanted.
"Exactly," said Chanel Black, a Mesa resident standing behind him.
"It's very tough. I've been on probably two or three interviews a week. I lost my job back in January," said Black, who worked for an air conditioning company.
"The economy's bad. It's hard to get people to get new air conditioners or do any maintenance to their air conditioners."
Ralls, a land surveyor, said he lost his job after the construction industry bottomed out.
"Nobody's building new buildings," he said as workers could be heard hammering on the new building above. Ralls said he's been out of work since October 2008.
Black and Ralls are two of 277,000 people out of work, according to the most recent figures from the Arizona Department of Commerce. That's 9.1 percent of the state's population.
David Drennon, a department spokesman, said that number has remained fairly stable.
"I don't think it's necessarily that high. It's high for us," he said, adding the state is below the national average of about 10 percent as of December.
The department was expected to release January jobless numbers today.
That's cold comfort for Gilbert resident Lawrence Brian Schwartz.
The graphic artist said he'll accept any position that he's offered.
"It's a terrible economy we're living in," he said, adding he was laid off in February 2009.
In the long term, Schwartz said he hopes to get hired at Gateway Studios, a proposed movie production studio in east Mesa.
A half-hour into the interviews, company officials had already met with about 60 prospective employees, said Jo Anne Harding, a company employee who was handing out applications.
"They're very quick interviews," she said.
Promising candidates would be called in for second interviews, she added.