While unemployment numbers fell slightly nationwide this week, there are still thousands without jobs in the Chicago area-- and some 7,000 jobseekers packed the Chicago State University campus during a transportation industry jobs fair held Tuesday.
As WLS reports, only 5,000 people registered online in advance of the fair, but word spread fast and they estimated the crowd was closer to 10,000. Recruiters at the fair are said to be ramping up their hiring due to an increased seasonal demand for back-to-school bus drivers and holiday package delivery. Rail companies, too, are hiring in preparation for upcoming improvement projects.
(Scroll down to watch video from Tuesday's jobs fair.)
The fair was organized by U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), whose district principally covers Chicago's South Side (including President Obama's home turf). Rush told WLS that "[t]he transportation industry is... going to save the economy here in Chicago and in the Midwest."
One jobseeker told the Chicago Sun-Times he wasn't surprised by the large turnout, adding that "there’s not a lot out there" in terms of jobs that pay a fair, living wage in Illinois.
The line began to form for the fair around 5 a.m., according to the Chicago News Cooperative. The university's 2,700-space parking lot was completely packed by mid-day.
Twenty-year-old Stephanie Watson, one of the first to arrive at the fair, expressed frustration to CNC about how the president has addressed unemployment in his former home state.
"President Obama what is going on? This is your city," Watson told CNC. "Why doesn’t he do something?"
Some attendees of the fair also expressed frustration that the event's massive turnout meant little face time with recruiters -- as well as no actual job interviews or hirings that took place on the spot, as WLS reported.
While unemployment numbers in Illinois are only slightly higher than the national average at 9.2 percent, some Chicago communities have been hit particularly hard. Chicago's unemployment rate actually climbed to 10.4 percent in June. According to last year's numbers, the unemployment rate for African-American men in the city was at 21.9 percent, and 14.4 percent for African-American women.