Area Unemployment Rate Climbs

April 12, 2012 Updated Apr 12, 2012 at 11:20 PM EDT

By John Borsa

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April 12, 2012 Updated Apr 12, 2012 at 11:20 PM EDT

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) - With about 20,000 more Western New Yorkers looking for a job than there were before the recession five years ago, competition for every open job is fierce.

That is why Colleen Sterner knows she has an uphill battle finding a new job. She attended a statewide job fair on Thursday, which was held in Buffalo and seven other cities.

"I'm really impressed with the companies that are here and I'm excited," she said.

The unemployment rate in Erie and Niagara Counties climbed to 9.1 percent in February, according to the state labor department. That is up from 8.8 percent in the same month a year ago.

There are 52,000 Western New Yorkers looking for work, according to state figures.