Unemployment worse in construction sector


You can hear the concern at Hicklebee's Bookstore on Lincoln Avenue in San Jose.

"It's slow, it's slow; January and February, you can feel the pinch," Valerie Lewis said.

And you can see it at the Iron Workers Union Hiring Hall, where few jobs are available for a growing number of trades people.

While the national jobless rate is now 7.6 percent, unemployment is much worse in certain occupations.

Construction has 1.7 million jobless workers, putting unemployment at 18.2 percent. The leisure and hospitality industry has almost 1.5 million jobless, an unemployment rate of 11.5 percent.

President Obama is worried the situation will get worse without federal intervention.

"Millions of jobs will be lost, more families will lose their homes," Obama said.

It is a big change from two or three months ago when construction workers had work.

"There's plenty of good projects out there to go forward, but nobody's lending any money, so without public investment, without public construction, we're going to see it become much worse," Building and Construction Trades Council CEO Neil Struthers said.

Unemployed iron worker Chivago Jolly is worried about the future.

"Failure is not an option as a father of three kids," he said. "My kids are cutting back; even my kids, they see the economy, they watch the news with me, they cut back on the way they eat, rather than throwing away food, they eat little bits."

One of the area's few major projects is wrapping up -- the new Rosewood Sand Hill Hotel in Menlo Park is almost completed.

Over the past two years, it employed as many as 350 construction workers, but it is now generating buzz as it starts to fill 200 openings when jobs are scarce.

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"With technology as it is, online applications have reached us from all countries around the world, but we have received by and large the majority of our candidates are coming from the Peninsula, from San Jose to San Francisco," the hotel's managing director Michael Casey said.

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