INDIO, Calif. -

Jerson Ceja, 23, was among the job seekers scouting for work at this year's Valley-Wide Employment EXPO in Indio.  He hasn't worked in 6 months and is looking for a way to help pay-off $14,000 in tuition.  He's currently a student at the Milan Institute studying to become a medical assistant.

"I am looking for anything that's open, because right now it's kind of difficult to find a job," said Ceja.

The latest numbers from the California Employment Development Department show the unemployment rate in Riverside-San Bernardino Counties was 11 percent in July, considerably higher than the state rate of 9.3 percent and the national average of 7.7 percent.

Still, local businesses are hiring.

"We have sales positions available that we're definitely trying to fill, because we're selling more and more cars month over month," said Roy Hoffman, sales manager for Palm Springs Motors.

So much so, Palm Springs Motors which currently employs about 100 people
set out to use the job expo to find qualified people to fill an anticipated 20 to 25 openings in various departments of the dealership.

"We had a few applicants that are going to come back for more interviews.  We got a good interview process.  We like to make sure everybody meets all the different managers and stuff like that," said Hoffman.

A philosophy that is refreshing for Heather Levesque.  She's been looking for work since July when she was laid off as a bartender, and has been turned off by companies that require on-line applications.

"You can't set yourself apart from other people on-line," said Levesque.  Your application looks the same as somebody elses application and then you what, have a hundred applications that all look a like."

More reason why there's nothing like a job fair to get the chance to look potential employers right in the eye.

"I still think it's the best way.  I still think old school is the best way.  It's the only way you can sell yourself," said Levesque.