An improved local economy may be the reason for a sparse turnout last week at the sixth annual Union County Job Fair.

An improved local economy may be the reason for a sparse turnout last week at the sixth annual Union County Job Fair.

The Sept. 18 event, hosted by the Union County Department of Job and Family Services and the Union County Chamber of Commerce, was held at the Union County Services Center. Attendance was less than a quarter of last year's turnout.

Jason Stanford, business development manager for the Union County Economic Development Partnership, said approximately 40 job-seekers showed up at this week's fair. Attendance at the job fair has fluctuated; the greatest turnout was in 2011 with more than 225 job-seekers. Last year, that number dropped to 190.

In the past, Stanford said, a dozen people were already in line when the doors opened. This year, only two people were waiting to get in.

Stanford said it is always difficult to forecast how many people to expect at the job fair, although he said organizers anticipated a slight decline this year.

"Many residents have already been able to find employment since the local economy has improved during the last couple of years," he said.

As of July, Union County was one of six Ohio counties with unemployment rates below 6 percent, according to figures from the Ohio Department of Job and Family services. Union County's unemployment rate was 5.8 percent in July. The average annual unemployment rate for 2012 in Union County was 5.5 percent, down from 7.2 percent in 2011, according to Stanford.

He said this year's situation is interesting because some businesses are having a difficult time finding workers.

"Because Union County is experiencing rapid growth, the demand for workers is threatening to outpace the supply," he said. "With our unemployment rate declining to pre-recession levels, some employers are expanding their geographic search for workers to surrounding areas.

"This has caused us to re-examine our workforce development initiatives and forge new partnerships."

Stanford said sponsoring agencies may also re-evaluate how to run the job fair in the future. One option would be a reverse job fair in which prospective employees set up tables with their resumes and employers come to them, he said.

Stanford said the Union County Economic Development Partnership has strengthened ties with education providers and with Job and Family Services in order to provide personalized training programs and skills assessment.

"We're also meeting regularly with area CEOs and human resource managers to determine the next steps in forming a multifaceted, community-based approach to workforce development," Stanford said.