Bay Area economy far from healthy

August 7, 2009 8:55:47 PM PDT
Silicon Valley has a long road to recovery. San Jose's unemployment rate a year ago was six percent and the number now is 13.1 percent.

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This means 100,000 jobless people like the ones who turned out for last week's job fair at HP Pavilion.

The executive director of Work2Future, the agency that sponsored the job fair, has noticed a trend: fewer mass layoffs and more interest in talking to job applicants.

"There's interest beginning to brew. We are hopeful that in the next three, four months that we will start to see a pickup in employment in a significant way," said Work2Future executive Jeff Ruster.

Still, finding jobs for 100,000 people won't happen quickly.

Sherry Gryba invested $15,000 to train to be an MRI technician, but no one is hiring.

"I need those survival jobs, and that's what I'm going to be working on next week is getting my resume for survival jobs, jobs that I know I am qualified to do but not really what I necessarily want to do long-term," said Gryba.

Cindy Chavez, executive director of the South Bay Labor Council, notes the jobless rate is 20 to 30 percent for building trades and as high as 90 percent for residential electricians.

"I think there's fear, but I think there's hope, and I think there's opportunity that as Californians if we can focus on the new green wave, we're going to be in a much better situation than if we didn't," said Chavez.

Apprentices at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union do see some hopeful signs.

"We just actually finished a building for Apple, and they're building another building, so I really think that things are coming out," said apprentice electrician Alex Hawley.

"I need to get out there and work. If I'm not working, I'm not earning money. And I need to do 8,000 hours to complete my apprenticeship," said Mike Willis.

Overall, it is going to be a long, slow road to recovery in Silicon Valley -- a journey experts say could take a year.

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