Calif. jobless rate up to 10.5 percent

March 20, 2009 6:20:01 PM PDT
California's new unemployment figures show the February jobless rate rose to 10.5 percent, more than two points higher than the national rate of 8.1 percent.

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Californians who have been looking for work in this recession find the new, higher jobless numbers discouraging. Nearly 2 million people are unemployed in this state.

"It's just bleak; in the face of that kind of number, you wonder if it's going to keep going up, I don't know," job seeker Suzette Slusser said.

Only a year ago, the unemployment rate was 6.2 percent but now, at 10.5 percent, unemployment is at its worst levels since April 1983.

University of California, Davis economist, Phil Martin, thinks the economy will get worse before it gets better. While the federal stimulus package included more than $2.5 billion for California highway projects, bids and contracting rules have to be followed before people can be hired.

"Most people don't expect any measurable uptick from that federal money for another three or four months, that's why we would expect the unemployment rate to go up even more in the next several months," Martin said.

Construction continues to be hammered with job losses totaling nearly 20 percent in the last year. This is usually the time when those jobs perk up.

"Yeah, nobody really wants to start anything without knowing what the economy is going to be," unemployed construction worker John Brannen said.

With so many people out of work, California's Employment Development Department's call centers will now be open for four hours on Saturdays to help handle record volumes of calls.

"We're going to be basically doing anything we can to pull staff from throughout the department and fill whatever empty space we have available in our call centers throughout the state; these are not trained people in Unemployment Insurance, but they can go ahead and do the basics," Development Department spokesperson Loree Levy said.

California has lost more than 600,000 jobs in the last year. Governor Schwarzenegger said in a statement, "the road to economic recovery will not be short."

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