ATLANTA --- Thousands of Georgians turned out Wednesday for a "job fair on steroids," hoping to sign on with one of the more than 100 potential employers on hand or to network themselves off the unemployment rolls.
State Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond, whose agency organized the five-hour event, estimated 10,000 people had arrived in the cavernous chambers of the Georgia World Congress Center by the time the career fair and expo got started at 4 p.m.
"This is the largest we have ever had," said Mr. Thurmond, calling it a "job fair on steroids."
Just holding the event provides hope to the unemployed, Mr. Thurmond said.
"You're always hopeful that things will turn around," said Don Wilborn, 42, of Covington, an urban planner for a nonprofit agency until last May. "If I didn't think they would turn around, I wouldn't be here."
Sarah Beth Cooper, 26, of Atlanta, said she had applied for 380 jobs over the Internet and attended "six or seven career fairs in Georgia and Florida," but had no luck so far.
"Right now, I'm just trying to pay the bills," said Ms. Cooper, out of work five months after being laid off as a customer service supervisor for a construction supply company.
Wednesday's event allowed the job seekers to meet face to face with hirers -- ranging from security firms and government agencies to fast-food companies and a chain of pawn shops -- or with those who could help hone their job-seeking skills.
Last month, the Labor Department said Georgia's unemployment rate hit a record 8.6 percent in January, meaning 412,770 unemployed Georgians were looking for work. That's an increase of more than 60 percent from the same time last year.