Valley Still Waiting for Recession Recovery

FRESNO, California The Valley is still experiencing near-record unemployment and there's one type of job where security is a thing of the past.

The country gained more than 160,000 jobs in March, but in the most recent numbers, Fresno County's jobless rate was still on the rise, nearly twice as high as the national rate. And for government workers, more job cuts are a sure thing.

When 4,000 people showed up at a job fair for Island Water Park, it may have said more about the Valley's dire financial condition than the popularity of the park. For some, a sense of desperation brought them out.

"It lets you know just how tough things are in the Central Valley," said financial analyst Sandy Brown. "I mean, that's a telltale sign right there."

The signs are even worse in the public sector, where California, Fresno County, and the city of Fresno are all bleeding jobs.

Between Feb. 2009 and Feb. 2010, the state eliminated 600 jobs in Fresno County, the county lost 400, and the city cut 600 more.

Brown says it's a second wave of the recession as decreased tax income forces government to tighten its belt.

As a result, a state employee retirement fair was almost as busy as the water park, filled with people thinking about getting out.

"Financial issues with the state and my personal financial issues because of the state are forcing me to find alternate employment," said state Fish & Game employee Derek Mazer.

Fresno County supervisors are considering more than 300 new job cuts in 2010, while city council members say their $26 million budget shortfall will lead to hundreds of layoffs. Many will be offered severance packages that will make retirement the best option available.

"Some people that may have been thinking of waiting another three to five years with the budget situation, they're looking really hard at, you know, are there options that I can go now before this budget situation gets any worse?" said Ron Kraft of CalPERS.

One way the city of Fresno could cut jobs is by letting private companies take over a few of its departments. The city would generate income that way, but hundreds of city workers would lose their jobs.

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