Although local governments and businesses have felt the economic pinch in 2009, you could argue that the economic downturn hit the average families of Union County hardest.

Although local governments and businesses have felt the economic pinch in 2009, you could argue that the economic downturn hit the average families of Union County hardest.

The Union County unemployment rate rose and fell in 2009, reaching a high of 9.2-percent in July, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

A good vantage point to see those numbers translated into reality is inside the county's Employment Resource Center.

"When the unemployment level was normal, we typically had about 500 to 600 walk-ins a month," said Larry Parish, Workforce Development Coordinator at the ERC. "Recently, I'd say up through October, that has increased to about 1,100 to 1,200 walk-ins a month."

The ERC provides a number of services to those seeking employment, including information on local job opportunities, training and education, computer tutorials, resume assistance, interview preparation and Internet access.

Parish said he sees people from all walks of life come through the center's doors.

"There are some that are frustrated and holding it in, some that vent to us about the job market," he said. "But there are still some that walk out of here with patience and persistence they know what sort of attitude employers respond to."

Pat, a Plain City woman who asked not to be identified in this story, said the employment assistance at the ERC has helped her in the past, and that she hopes it can again.

"I've been on food stamps and unemployment since Sept. 30," she said. "I was working with a temp service in the administrative field, and I've just been waiting too long for them to find me something else."

Pat said that often it's not just the lack of jobs that make it hard for county families to find employment, but that health problems and family obligations can limit opportunities as well.

"I've known friends and family that have had to spend time taking care of an ill or elderly family member, which takes time to do," she said.

Pat said that in recent years an elderly member of her family became sick, and since she was already unemployed, the day-to-day care of her relative fell to Pat, further limiting her options in job-seeking.

Marysville resident April DeArruda went through the program at ERC but was then unable to find a paying position so she stuck around to answer the phones and perform secretarial duties.

"After finishing that I still couldn't find work, but it happened that this position came open; I just wish I could be paid for it," she said. "But it is nice working in here to help people in the same situation, and hopefully it puts me in a good position to see when jobs open up."

DeArruda said she began job-hunting when her husband was injured and placed on workers' compensation. While she was worried about being able to provide Christmas presents for their children, ages 13 and 9, DeArruda said a county volunteer group stepped in to help.

"I first heard about the Care Train of Union County this year, and was really excited," she said. "It was the first time I'd heard of them, and the first time we'd needed help."

The annual fundraiser, which provides toys and other assistance to families in need around the holidays, helped to make things a little easier until the family income can get back to normal, DeArruda said.

"It was really awesome, we were able to get several presents for both of the kids through them," she said.