California Unemployment Rate Stuck At 12.4 Percent

SUNNYVALE (AP) – California’s unemployment rate stayed put last month, remaining at 12.4 percent and hinting at some stability after the state has endured a brutal run of job losses since 2009.

The state’s unemployment rate hit a modern record of 12.6 percent in March and April and creeped up a tenth of a percentage point in August. The rate has now held at or above 12 percent for 14 months since reaching 12 percent in August 2009.

KCBS’ Barbara Taylor Reports:

The state shed an average of 69,700 positions a month in 2009.

Jeff Michael, who directs the Business Forecasting Center at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, was not encouraged by September’s data, released Friday by state Employment Development Department.

“It’s moving sideways,” said Michael, whose center’s quarterly forecast predicted this week that California’s unemployment rate would remain above 10 percent for three more years. “It’s a sign of the fact that this recovery isn’t gaining any traction at all.”

California continues to exceed the nation’s unemployment rate, which has held steady for two straight months at 9.6 percent.

Nearly 2.3 million people were unemployed in California in September. That’s up 10,000 over the month and an increase of 69,000 compared to September 2009. The state lost 63,600 non-farming jobs in August, a decrease of 43,700 jobs from a year ago.

The decline reflected the continuing fallout from the collapse of the housing market, with construction employment showing the greatest year-over-year decreases, plummeting 8.8 percent.

Professional and business services, however, showed the biggest gain, increasing 2.9 percent — or 58,500 jobs — over the year.

Dennis Meyers, principal economist with the state Department of Finance, said that growth was likely being driven by increasing temporary employment in sectors that are doing relatively well, such as shipping and technology.

The Employment Development Department also reported that 595,996 Californians were receiving unemployment insurance benefits in September, down from 620,844 in August and from 744,924 in September 2009.

New jobless claims, however, were up last month, reaching 75,316 from 65,261 in August and from 69,160 in September of last year. Claims had dipped between July and August.

Meyers said the increase in jobless claims doesn’t necessarily indicate a new wave of job losses, although economists will be paying attention to whether that number continues to increase over several months.

“If the number skyrockets, that’s telling us something pretty significant,” he said.

(© 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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