By Steven Duke
Economics reporter, BBC News
Few things illustrate an economic downturn more starkly than a thick pile of CVs - a catalogue of qualifications and experience desperate to find a use, even for a few hours a week as a bar assistant.
One such pile sits in front of Craig Cockcroft, the deputy manager of the Bower Hotel on the outskirts of Oldham.
"I put an advert in the local job centre two and a half weeks ago - I've already had over 50 applications," he says.
"A year ago I would have expected half that number. It's easy to find staff; very easy at the moment."
Jobless hot spots
Oldham has one of the highest ratios of jobseekers to vacancies in Britain. According to official figures, the area has almost 31 people on Jobseeker's Allowance for every vacancy advertised in government job centres.
Local resident Jenni Woo could be about to become another statistic. She is not on Jobseeker's Allowance yet, but has been chasing a full time job since November, without much luck.
"I'm looking into unemployment benefit now, as I've just been getting bits of temp work from week to week."
She left the jobs market last year because of health reasons, but finds she now cannot get back in.
"There's a massive difference from 12 months ago. Previously I could walk out of a job and go straight into another. You can't now."
Vacancy hot spots
In the neighbouring county sits Chester - 50 miles away by road but many more in terms of the jobs market.
Jackie and Andy Delooze opened Café Latino in the centre of the picturesque city just two weeks ago.
They happily joke about the wisdom of starting a coffee shop as the country slides into recession, but it's all gone smoothly so far - except for one thing; recruiting staff.
"We advertised in the shop window for four weeks while we refurbished the store ready for the grand opening. We also worked with the job centre," explains Andy as he gears up for the lunch time rush.
They wanted to fill five posts - but got just 12 CVs. "We were very surprised at how few people applied," he notes.
"We expected loads of applicants, but they never materialised."
With near-comic timing, someone then walks in and drops off a CV.
But the statistics, put together by analysts at Gavurin from official unemployment statistics and the number of vacancies at government job centres, suggest this person is a relative rarity in the town.
Chester has one of the lowest ratios of jobseekers to vacancies in Britain, with just under two people on unemployment benefit for every advertised vacancy in the town.
A couple of streets away, an agency that trains staff for the health industry has a permanent sign outside proclaiming workers are urgently sought.
"We have 10 full time care worker vacancies that we could fill today if we could find the right people," sighs Nick Hodson, manager of Jane Lewis Health and Social Care.
But he admits the shortage of workers appears to be limited to affluent areas such as Chester.
"In the centre of cities like Manchester and Liverpool we find it much easier to find people," he explains.
Chester is not unique in having a low number of jobseekers for every vacancy, but as the claimant count continues to tick up, it is Oldham that increasingly reflects the changes that are taking place across Britain.
"People with degrees are looking to come and work here as bar assistants. It's good for us, but shows there's a lot of people out there looking for work," remarks Craig as he fingers the large pile of CVs sent to his hotel.
Across town, Jenni sits in a job agency. "I don't even get interviews," she says with a shrug."I can't see it getting any better. I'll just keep my fingers crossed - something always turns up, doesn't it?"