California’s Unemployment Rate Hits Record High

Today’s Employment Development Department monthly data release is filled with bad news. California’s unemployment rate is now the highest since recordkeeping began in 1976: 11.2 percent, up six-tenths of a percentage point from the prior month. More than 62,000 jobs were lost between February and March. At the same time, 23,000 Californians joined the ranks of those who are either working or seeking employment. Thus, the number of people who want a job is growing while the number of jobs continues to decline.

Only two major sectors expanded between March 2008 and March 2009: educational and health services, which added nearly 40,000 jobs, and agriculture, which added 8,000. Construction continues to shrink, with 152,300 jobs vanishing in the last year. The trade, transportation, and utilities sector shed approximately 170,000 jobs over the year, the biggest loss of any major sector.

One bright spot in this depressing labor market story is that the state is now pulling down federal economic recovery funds to provide 20 additional weeks of unemployment insurance benefits to laid-off workers and to make it easier for many workers to qualify for benefits.

— Vicky Lovell

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