CA unemployment rate increases to 12.1 percent

FRESNO, California

Merced County has the highest unemployment rate at 17.5%. Mariposa County has the lowest rate at 10.2%. Madera is more than 14%. Fresno and Tulare Counties are over 15% and it's a similar situation in Kings County. Some experts say these rates could rise even higher.

"Just not working out but I'm still trying because I have to feed my kids," said Kenya Young. She has been looking for work for more than half a year but has had little luck. "Any place I see is hiring, I'm putting in an application, hoping they have a heart and they see that I need a chance."

A chance many of the unemployed in the Central Valley need. The latest unemployment numbers from August show more than 15% of Fresno County residents are out of work, a slight improvement from July.

"Some of the job gains are small but I think any job gains at this point is a good thing," said Steven Gutierrez with the Employment Development Department. Fresno County added 23 hundred jobs in the agriculture sector in August but those numbers are expected to drop significantly in the coming months.

"Agriculture starts to go dormant which affects some of the other industries. Normally that's when we see an uptick in regards to the unemployment rate," said Gutierrez.

A dismal picture for many farming communities, including the city of Selma where more than 20% of its 11,000 residents don't have jobs.

"We're going through the worst economic time. I think it's the worst economy in modern history," said Selma City councilman Dennis Lujan. Selma relies heavily on the agriculture industry but with jobs expected to disappear with the end of harvest season, Lujan doesn't foresee any job growth in any other sector.

"We have two huge shopping centers going through the pipeline right now, but they're being held up because of the bad economy," he said.

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