MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) – Three generations of job seekers – more than 10,000 – descended on a job fair at a New Hampshire college gymnasium Thursday, jamming traffic for miles and forcing organizers to cut off admission to the event after just two hours.

Officials shut down shuttle bus service from a nearby mall to the overwhelmed Southern New Hampshire University campus by noon, several hours before the heavily publicized event was to end.

Job applicants ranging from college students to unemployed executives in their 60s waited in seemingly endless lines for buses to the event, then to speak with recruiters, then for buses back to their cars. Police Lt. Maureen Tessier gave an unofficial crowd estimate of more than 10,000, and many hundreds more were turned away.

“People are very serious about employment and not just running around grabbing goodies for the sake of filling up goodie bags,” said Don Legere, who was looking to hire people for his financial services firm Modern Woodmen of America.

He was seeing about 25 people an hour, looking to hire two to four people immediately and another six to eight by the end of the year.

“I’ve seen a lot of good, quality people,” he said.

Maureen Maslanka, 52, of Nashua, was laid off in September from an electronics job. She said she left the event, her first job fair, “a little optimistic.”

“I spoke with the people that I’ve been sending resumes over and over and over to,” she said. “So I got to give it to them by hand.”

Chris Duchaine, 32, of Johnson, Vt., got shut out because of the gridlock.

Duchaine and a friend drove to Manchester after dropping off resumes at a job fair in Massachusetts Thursday morning, but he got there after the shuttle buses stopped running. Duchaine joked that he met people in line in Massachusetts who already had been to the Manchester event.

He was philosophical, even though he struck out in Manchester.

“The effort you put in is what you get out,” Duchaine said, mentioning that a friend who hunted hard just landed a job paying 25 percent more than one he lost.

Sponsors WMUR-TV, the state and the college said more than 150 employers looking to fill 1,500 full- and part-time jobs took part, including Burger King, the U.S. Secret Service and defense contractor BAE Systems.

General Manager Jeff Bartlett said the turnout was far more than anyone expected.

“I think the bottom line to all of us, despite all the traffic problems, is that hundreds and maybe over a thousand people will get a job out of this job fair and that’s a pretty good day if you can put that many people back to work,” Bartlett said.

New Hampshire’s unemployment was 5.3 percent in February, the most recent month available. That translated to 39,290 people seeking jobs.

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