Stimulus-funded jobs leave some in the cold

October 2, 2009 5:51:39 PM PDT
Unemployment is getting worse in California, despite federal money being spread around to stimulate jobs.

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New numbers out Friday from the labor department show unemployment inched higher; 263,000 more jobs were cut last month, far more than analysts expected.

That brings the unemployment rate to 9.8 percent in September. But, California's jobless rate is even worse. The California jobless rate is 12.2 percent -- almost 2.5 percent higher than the new national numbers.

It is tough to find a job, especially when early stimulus funds seem to be focused on shovel-ready construction.

Signs have popped up all over the bay area, heralding new jobs created by stimulus funds.

One such project is underway on a taxiway extension at Mineta San Jose International Airport.

"We estimate that there are about 80 construction jobs associated with this project," airport spokesperson David Vossbrink said. "The project started in early September, and it's scheduled to be done in January."

The $5 million in stimulus funds, plus a smaller amount from the Federal Aviation Administration, is putting people to work, but it is not always creating new jobs.

"This is allowing Pavex to keep their team working, so it's a combination either of job creation or job retention in a down economy," Vossbrink said.

San Jose is getting stimulus funds, too, to repave streets. That will also put construction crews to work. The city will use outside contractors.

However, this is frustrating for people like Santiago Garcia. He was a forklift operator for a produce company.

Stimulus funds, for now, only seem to be helping construction workers.

"It doesn't help me at all; I don't have no experience, usually if I do apply, I have applied for a couple of them, and I never receive a call back, it won't do me any good," Garcia said.

Out of work for a year, Garcia is worried for his wife and daughter.

"I'll take whatever, but construction, I can't," he said.

So the short-range outlook is dim for Garcia and others who need work now, utilizing existing skills.

It is a dilemma that San Jose Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren understands.

"The fact that we're working hard to turn it around doesn't solve their problem," Lofgren said. "If you're looking for a job and you haven't found one, that's pretty disastrous for your family, and we're well aware of that."

In Congress, one critic of stimulus spending says if the economy is the size of a football field, then the U.S. is only at the one-yard line.

More layoffs are planned this month in California -- over 1,600 in the Bay Area.

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