PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – The city of Portsmouth held a career fair Thursday afternoon.

They hoped to fill more than 30 job vacancies in the city’s government.

According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment was up to three percent at the end of 2022, a jump from around 2.8 percent from the month before.

The event was free to anyone wanting to hold a position in the city, with 12 different employers actively looking to hire, including Portsmouth police, fire, dispatch and more.

Portsmouth Director of Human Resources Gregory Coleman said the number of vacancies made the event so important.

“We have quite a few vacancies in the city and we’re aggressively trying to reduce those numbers,” Coleman said, “so we think it’s vital to have these types of events, the career fair as often as we can … to let the area know we are hiring, we are open for business, and we encourage them to come out and apply.”

The COVID-19 pandemic hit many workforces hard. Coleman said Portsmouth was no exception.

“Coming out of the pandemic the workforce shrunk,” Coleman said, “We have some individuals who have retired – no one definitive reason as to why.”

The city advertised the event on social media as a chance for people to become part of the solution.

Akia Armstrong, one of the job candidates, said she wants to be a part of the move to make Portsmouth a better place to live.

“I want to be able to give back to my community,” Armstrong said. “I want to be able to help the needy, the ones who are outside right now and it was cold this last winter and I went out there and fed them and gave them blankets. I want them to be able to know that if no one in Portsmouth does not care, I care.”

She almost didn’t come to the career fair, but said something told her to stop by, and she’s glad she did.

“I came here today, and I actually feel awesome, I really do,” Armstrong said. “I went to almost every table, even the police table and I wasn’t expecting that. I really enjoyed myself and I feel confident enough to know that someone’s going to call me.”

Coleman said the city will hold a career fair each quarter, with the next one being in April.