The recession has left an indelible mark on south Etobicoke, where factory closings have thrown more than 1,600 people from their jobs.

Some turned to JobStart, a United Way agency offering free career services to jobless youth, students, the disabled, adults and newcomers. With three locations in the city, the agency also works with employers to find and recruit workers.

“Absolutely everyone is affected by the economic situation,” said Julia Knapp, director of programs. Last year, JobStart served over 7,000 new clients and more than 66,000 people used the employment resource centre.

In July, 65 per cent of clients on Employment Insurance attended its adult Career Solutions program, up from 38 per cent in April. More clients asked for skills upgrading, information about access to food banks and what they need to do to change careers.

Attendance is increasing at all agency workshops and programs. Among those asking for assistance are new immigrants whose numbers, according to 2006 census data for the area, grew some 25 per cent between 1991 and 2000, and 18 per cent between 2001 and 2006.

One way the agency is meeting needs is the Community Access Program. In the computer lab, clients get free Internet, set up email accounts, do homework and job searches. Volunteers like Carol Birchall and United Way funding ensure the lab is open five days a week.