Matthew Hendley was laid off from the local Bridgestone plant several months ago. Since then, he has been searching for work and was one of 800 job seekers who registered at the Aiken County Job Fair on Tuesday at Aiken Technical College.


“It's been very complicated trying to find a job, and around here, it seems like most plants aren't hiring, so things have been a little rough lately,” said Hendley.


Like many others, Hendley spent much of Tuesday morning shaking hands and handing out copies of his resume at the job fair.


The event featured 70 businesses and companies ranging from fast food restaurants to staffing agencies, grocery stores and cellphone service providers.


Like Hendley, local resident Dee Long said she began actively searching for employment about two months ago and has encountered difficulty due to the harsh economic climate. While reports indicate that the national and local economy are recovering, Long has hit some snags in her job search.


“I think part of it is that employers don't really get to know those who are applying because a lot of it is online versus face-to-face, so it can be a challenge,” Long said.


She added that she has a background in finance, as well as in human resources. However, she understands the need for diversity and is ready to take on new challenges.


“I'm looking for something in the finance industry, but I am not opposed to learning and being trained in another industry,” she added.


Several employers gave an account of what they are looking for in employees; BI-LO spokeswoman Gail Howell said the company is hiring at all of its local stores for various positions.


“We train for all of our positions, so having a retail background is not necessary,” Howell said.


The event was primarily sponsored by the Department of Social Services and co-sponsored by SC JUMMP, Aiken Technical College, SC Works, Goodwill Industries of Upstate/Midlands South Carolina, Operation Palmetto Employment, the Aiken-Augusta Warrior Project and Midlands Fatherhood Coalition.


John Timmons, from Social Services, said the department hosts several of the events, including a recent one in Columbia that saw more than 1,800 in attendance.


“We're getting a lot of people out to these events, which is great,” Timmons said. “Aiken Tech is great to work with, and we had some other great players to get this event to come together.”


According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the unemployment rate for Aiken County was at 5.5 percent as of June, the last month for which data was available. The rate is down from May's rate of 5.7 percent. Statewide, June's employment rate sat at 5.7 percent, but was a bit of a spike from May's rate of 5.2 percent.


Derrek Asberry is a beat reporter with the Aiken Standard. He joined the paper in June. He is originally from Vidalia, Ga., and a graduate of Georgia Southern University. Follow him on Twitter @DerrekAsberry.