Calif. Unemployment Rate At 9.3 Percent

January 23, 2009 7:38:10 PM PST
The state's unemployment rate has gone from bad to worse by jumping up again. It hasn't hit this high in 15 years. Unemployment grew to 9.3 percent in December-- adding more than 78,000 more people to the jobless ranks.

All in all, 1.7 million Californians were looking for work last month and now the state's unemployment insurance will run out of money in a couple of days.

2008 was a bad year for workers, and it shows in the unrelenting stream of people going into California's unemployment offices. Thirteen months ago, the state's jobless rate was just 5.9 percent. It grew gradually, until spiking last November. By the end of 2008, 9.3 percent were out-of-work; that's much higher than the national rate.

"If the U.S. unemployment rate goes up to 10 percent, which is what most predictions are, the California rate could go up as high as 12 percent," says Professor Philip Martin, Ph.D., a U.C. Davis economist.

That's not good news for those looking for scarce jobs. It's already hard now looking for work.

"Hundreds and hundreds. I've applied on MonsterJobs.com, Cal jobs, government jobs, everything. Even fast food services and they're still not hiring," says April Barber, an unemployed college student.

Video from the California Employment Development Department shows the agency trying to keep up with the demand for unemployment checks. The state is paying out $34 million in benefits a day.

"What we're seeing is a big toll on the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund that pays these benefits with contributions from employers. We now anticipate that fund to be insolvent probably within the next day or two," says Loree Levy, a CA Employment Development Department.

Once the money runs out, the state will start dipping into an emergency loan from Washington D.C. which somehow, the state will have to pay back.

"We're fired up and can't take it no more," chants a crowd of state workers.

Hundreds of government workers rallied at the Capitol to save their jobs. If state leaders don't send enough money to cities and counties, they may be next to get pink slips.

"Yes, I am worried about my job. Yes. Because if we don't get nothing from the state, we're talking about a second wave of layoffs," says Benjamin Mendoza, a City Parks Worker.

The job cutbacks will continue to be ugly. In the first 10 days of this year, medium and large size firms already notified the state they plan to fire 19,000 workers.

The only bright spot in those numbers is that the Bay Area's unemployment rate is lower than the state average. Alameda County is at 7.8 percent, Santa Clara County is at 7.7 percent, while San Francisco is at 6.6 percent.

Marin and San Mateo counties have the lowest unemployment in the state. Marin is at 5.4 percent and San Mateo County is at 5.9.


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