More than 1,000 unemployed people seeking help at a federal job fair in Stafford, Va., waited hours on Monday, only to be turned away from the event.
The fair, sponsored by U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, attracted more than 4,000 job seekers to the University of Mary Washington campus by noon -- some from as far away as Connecticut. At that point, a spokesperson said the event had reached capacity. Traffic around the campus was backed up as Warner's staffers and deputies with the Stafford Sheriff's Office started telling hundreds of people to go home.
The scene appeared contrary to Virginia's 7 percent unemployment rate, astounding and frustrating some out-of-work employees who showed up.
"You hear it's getting better as far as the jobless rate," said laid-off worker Theresa Miller, standing among a throng of others who were hoping to meet with recruiters. "No, it's not. Just take a look."
"People are really hurting," said Mitchell Harris, who also was laid off from his job. "Other than just seeing numbers and other than having physical evidence, you can see it in people's faces."
The frustration grew for those who actually made it inside the job fair and were told that they have to apply for federal jobs online. Some 7,000 people in all flocked to the event, and hundreds were still in line by the time the fair closed at 4 p.m.
Despite having to shut the doors on plenty of anxious job seekers, some of Warner's staffers said they're rooting for all the people who showed up.
"If you walk through this line, it's an extraordinary group of people," said Warner spokesman Jonathan Davidson. "These are folks who should be employed and would work really hard for anybody who employed them."
Sen. Warner's office said another job fair would be scheduled in the next few weeks.