It's been standing room only at times at the Training and Employment Consortium in Canyon City.

"The number of people seeking retraining between last year at this time and this year has doubled," said Kathy Cancilla, director of the jobs training agency.

TEC also is developing a job-search club, "where people can network and understand that they're not alone," she said.

A challenge that TEC faces is that the program's performance is based on moving people into high-growth, high-demand and high-wage jobs - positions not always available in Grant County.

"One of the hardest questions we have to ask is 'Are you willing to relocate?'" Cancilla noted. "That's why we continue to reach out to the business community to identify the skill sets they're looking for so that we can help job seekers gain those skills so they can continue to live in Grant County," she added.

As individuals struggle, that also can put more demand on social service agencies.

Gary Lewis is the site manager for Community Counseling Solutions, which contracts with Grant County to provide a range of counseling and mental health services. He said the office is seeing more referrals, even in the last few weeks.

"It's hard to connect it to the economy, but we are seeing a lot of people complaining about joblessness, not in every situation, but definitely we're seeing a lot more of it. We're getting a lot more calls than we used to."

He said in general, stress levels rise when money is tight.

"People come to us for ways to answer questions, develop coping skills, connect with resources they hadn't considered. We talk about options and supports in their lives - family, friends, church," he said.

Other agencies reporting also are seeing greater demand for help. Food stamp usage from January 2008 to January 2009 increased 15.7 percent, said Julie Powell of the Department of Human Services self-sufficiency office in John Day.

And local folks are reaching out to help their neighbors.

A Prairie City pastor and local volunteers created a new food pantry this winter as the economic news worsened. The food boxes and free monthly community dinners complement the assistance available through the Grant County Food Bank, based in John Day.

Facing continuing challenges, Grant County residents count on a history of resilience.

Grocer Blaine Huffman sees nearly everybody in Prairie City at one time or another at his Huffman's Market, and he's familiar with the cyclical nature of the region's employment. He knows that this downturn is more difficult in ways, in part because the rest of the state and the nation also are shedding jobs.

"There isn't much out there, either," he said.

But he sees the good in the people of Grant County.

"We help each other through the hard times," said Huffman. "If I were unemployed, I'd rather be here, than facing it in a big city. We are like a family in these small communities."