At the end of last year, Joyce Guyton of Lexington separated from her husband.
In January, she was laid off from her paralegal job.
Last month, her health insurance payments jumped from $173 a month to $485.
Next year, her unemployment benefits will dry up.
"The bottom has fallen out," the 63-year-old said. "I have to find a job."
Guyton was one of thousands of people who Wednesday jammed the Employment Expo at the State Fairgrounds - the state's largest job fair .
The numbers tell the story.
About 3,000 people attended - down only slightly from last year's record crowd of 3,700. But there were half as many exhibitors.
In normal times, there would be 60 to 70 potential employers setting up booths around the Cantey Building. Last December, the number of exhibitors dropped to 40. This year, there were 20.
South Carolina's jobless rate in October tied an all-time high, rising to 12.1 percent as more people are having a hard time finding work in the recession that began two years ago. The state's unemployment rate had reached 12.1 percent in June before sliding as more people stopped looking for work.
About 350 to 400 people were lined up at 10 a.m. to enter the expo, which is sponsored by the S.C. Employment Commission and The State Media Co.
Workers had to pull in extra chairs and tables to accommodate the crowds, preparing resumes and flipping through books listing more than 1,250 job openings filed with the commission.
"It's simple: the economic times," said the commission's area director Keith Lucas.
Mike Williams, the commission special events coordinator, added, "We got fewer jobs. It's unfortunate."
The longest line was at the Michelin booth, where a steady queue of 50 to 75 people patiently waited to get information on a handful of equipment repair jobs at the Lexington plant.
Michelin's Bob Clandy said he has worked 12 job fairs this year from Oklahoma to the Carolinas.
"This is the longest line I've seen," he said. "Maybe this is just promoted more. But things are bad out there."
But the morning rush waned in the afternoon, rendering the morning's predictions of a new record crown incorrect.
"We just never got that second wave," Williams said.
One of those looking for work was 51-year-old welder Donnell Taylor of Hopkins.
He was laid off from a steel company in Columbia four months ago. Since then, he has been working various jobs through a temp agency.
He was gathering information on Centura College, a Two Notch Road technical school.
Taylor said he is behind on his bills and is barely hanging onto his house.
Perhaps he could retrain himself as a heating and air conditioning technician, he said.
"It's frustrating knowing you have to start over again," he said.
Centura recruiter Kimberly Grace said she was getting two to three times the traffic she saw last year at the job fair.
"We're definitely getting more people," she said.
While the number of older job seekers like Guyton and Taylor was striking, those attending Wednesday's expo seemed to represent every age and ethnic group, social strata and education level.
Take 27-year-old Kelly Mack.
The 2004 USC public relations and marketing grad from Newberry got a good job out of college working for an Upstate real estate firm. Last year, after the real estate market crashed, Mack found herself without a job.
"Things got tough," she said.
Since then, she has been working for a temp agency and has had no luck finding something permanent.
"I'm not married. I don't have children. I don't own a house. So I don't have to worry about all that," she said. "But I'm lucky to have a good family and friends to help me through."
College degrees, years of experience and impressive resumes might actually hurt more than help one's chance of getting a job right now, said unemployed accountant Randy Hicks of Harbison.
In late 2008, he left a night job as a bookkeeper at a downtown Columbia hotel for a job with a temporary accounting firm, working a few weeks or months with companies who needed extra help.
"I just wanted a day job," he said. "In retrospect, that was a bad idea."
The temp work disappeared. And at age 49, with two associate degrees in finance and accounting, Hicks said he is often turned down for a full-time job because he is overqualified or too old.
"There's an age factor that no one admits, but it's real," he said. "Younger people will work longer hours for less money. And they don't want to give me a low-level job with my experience and education because they think I will find something better and leave. So, I'm stuck.
"But right now, man, I'll take anything."