A line of 200-plus jobseekers snaked around the Coliseum in downtown St. Petersburg before doors opened at 10 a.m. Thursday for a job and career training fair.
Clutching coffee, coats and resumes, the throng ran the gamut in age, race and job experience. Some dressed in suits holding briefcases; others in jeans. But they shared a common cause: securing work in a climate of double-digit unemployment.
Among them: Elliot Lambert, 42, of St. Petersburg, who has been on a job hunt for two years.
A truck driver by trade, Lambert has taken part-time jobs as he finds them, including a stint working maintenance for the Tampa Bay Rays a year ago when the team's fortunes took it to the World Series.
With half the job fair filled by colleges and other institutions offering training, Lambert said he's open for a career change. He's just looking for a starting point.
"If you're not out there looking for a job, it's not going to come to you," he said. "You have to get out there. It's first-come, first-serve."
The fair, sponsored by the St. Petersburg Times, is expected to draw at least 3,500 before it ends at 3 p.m., organizer Dave LaBell said.
With unemployment in the Tampa Bay area at 12.3 percent, the jobs crisis has taken center stage as one of the biggest obstacles to pulling out of the longest recession since World War II.
On Friday, state political leaders are holding a jobs summit in Orlando to discuss ways of tackling the issue in advance of the legislative session beginning in Tallahassee.