Merced's Bleak Unemployment Numbers

January 23, 2009 6:45:22 PM PST
Local leaders say Merced residents are scared to spend during this recession. And local businesses have been forced to cut back or close down as a result.This dreary day outside matches the melancholy mood inside Merced's Employment Development Department.

"There's nothing here. The jobs are real limited and there are so many people applying for these jobs, it's just ridiculous," said Dave Harrington.

Dave Harrington is a licensed Refrigeration Tech and a father of five. He's also one of the estimated 16,800 Merced County residents who are currently unemployed.

"I probably put maybe 70 resumes and applications out in the past 4 months, and there's nothing here," said Dave Harrington.

The County's Employment Assistance Center, Worknet, is now seeing about 120 people a day. Staff members have even had to start enforcing time limits on the computers.

Program Manager Michelle Allison attributes the latest unemployment rate increase to more losses in the construction and manufacturing sectors, as well as the recent closures of Circuit City, Mervyn's, and Linens n' Things. But she says Worknet is trying to get people back in business by offering resume workshops, adult school classes, and other job search assistance.

"While it is dismal right now, it does have the potential to increase the opportunities for that individual," said Michelle Allison.

Meanwhile local leaders are working to attract new industries and retailers that are still expanding despite the struggling economy.

Merced Development Mgr. Frank Quintero said, "We're looking at our codes, our impact fees and seeing what we can do to make Merced more open to welcoming business to the community."

But Harrington says he may have to search for sunnier times somewhere else ...

"I'm looking the Bay Area now," said Harrington.

City officials say Kohl's is set to replace Mervyn's at the Merced Mall. And they're making progress on a controversial Wal-Mart Distribution Center that would bring about 600 new jobs to the area.

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