The line up of people hungry for work stretched for blocks.

Abdul Sidibe was one of the hundreds who waited in a long line on Wednesday leading towards the doors of Rexall Place for a chance, no matter how slim, to find a job.

Sibide, an ironworker who lost his job in the downturn, said having to look for work is starting to take its toll.

"It's the most painful thing any human being can go through," he said.

And Sibide isn't alone in his hunt.

In January, Alberta's unemployment rate hit 7.4 per cent, the highest in 20 years. In that month alone, the province bled 10,000 jobs, making the total losses 35,000 since last year. If you look at the full-time employment numbers, that the total is even higher, 73,000 full-time positions were lost, offset by 38,000 part-time jobs. 

Shelley Tobin, the owner of HireSuccess Staffing, has been helping Albertans find employment for almost 15 years. She said she has never seen this many people in need of help before.

"We haven't hit this level before," said Tobin. "The desperation that's out there, and the number of people that are unemployed. I mean, when the numbers came out for January, it was the first time in 20 years we've seen numbers that high.

"I haven't seen it like this, and the number of people that we are interacting with on a daily basis is skyrocketing."   

Tobin said they will receive about 300 to 400 applications for a typical posting, as opposed to the 20 or 30 they would receive only 18 months ago. She said given that, and the sheer number of people looking for work in Alberta, employers can afford to be picky. 

Abdul Sidibe

Abdul Sidibe is just one of many Albertans that are trying to find employment during the downturn. (CBC News)

"Employers are able to pick who they want, and they are being picky about what they want, whether it is through us or on their own," said Tobin. 

"They're looking for very specific skill sets, and they have the ability to wait for that person."

But still Albertans flock to job fairs with the hope of employment. 

Wednesday's fair, put on by the Oil Kings organization, wasn't well-received by some attendees. It featured only 32 participants, and many attendees complained that the representatives simply told them to apply online. Sibide said after waiting so long in line, he was underwhelmed by what he found. 

"We've been in this line for so long, and we come in and there's only a few things. They're nothing. I've only seen a few things, really." 

He said most of what he did find inside was unhelpful for an unemployed oil worker. 

Social Media Complaints

Several people took to social media to complain about the job fair. (CBC News)

Other attendees took to social media to voice their displeasure, and in multiple posts on the event's Facebook page some lamented the small number of representatives and what they saw as poor planning.

"Don't waste your time unless you want to work at McDonald's, just saying," said one. "Barely any representatives! It was a joke!" read another.

As for Sibide, he said he's not yet looking to change his profession, but for now the current outlook is bleak.  

"There's nothing, honestly. It is painful. We're trying to survive. I hope something better comes up."