California unemployment rate at 10.1 percent

February 27, 2009 5:21:54 PM PST
New unemployment figures from the state of California are alarming. They show that one in ten people have lost their job.

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For those looking for work at this unemployment office, the news is grim. California's latest jobless rate is not that far off the record of 11 percent set back in November of 1982.

"I have a Master's degree and when you know you've complied with all of society's requirements for advancing yourself, and you are still unemployed, that's what's really discouraging," said unemployed paralegal Camille Sorrell.

A year ago, the state's unemployment rate was just over six percent. In December, revised numbers show it at 8.7 percent and last month, it crossed into the double-digit sphere -- a whopping 10.1 percent.

"So many trends begin here, that the fear is our double-digit unemployment in California today will be across the United States tomorrow," said UC Berkeley Labor Specialist Prof. Harley Shaiken.

With nearly two million Californians out of work, the rising demand for unemployment services has pushed the state into overdrive.

About $40 million dollars a day in benefit checks are being cut and mailed out each day. A record 525,000 initial claims were processed last month and a federal loan is keeping that fund solvent.

And the call center staff at the state unemployment office is stretched thin. In an ironic twist, the state is actually hiring 400 people to help answer questions.

It still takes people, on average, 20 tries before they can talk to a live person.

Governor Schwarzenegger says the state addressing the budget crisis last week could open up public works jobs.

"It is billions and billions of dollars that we can push out there as quickly as possible and put people to work. That, to me, is the most important thing," said Gov. Schwarzenegger.

The state is anxiously awaiting federal stimulus money that'll add more public works jobs on top of that. That stimulus package also bumps up unemployment checks another $25 a week by mid-March.

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