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A blog about the economy and the Sacramento-area real estate market.

August 21, 2009
California unemployment: 11.9 percent

California's unemployment rate continued climbing to 11.9 percent last month but there was encouraging news as the pace of job losses moderated. 

The Employment Development Department said the state's unemployment rate jumped three-tenths of a percentage point during the month. The 11.9 percent was the highest posted in the state's modern records, which date to 1976.

But the state lost just 35,800 jobs during the month. That's the smallest loss since last August and may suggest an easing of the downturn. The state has been losing at least 60,000 jobs a month for the past several months.

Sacramento's unemployment rate rose to 11.8 percent, up a tenth of a point from a revised 11.7 percent in June. The region lost 8,000 jobs during the month, with much of the job loss coming in education as summer schedules kicked in. In a year's time, the region has lost 45,700 jobs, or 5.1 percent, and unemployment has risen 4.6 percentage points.

One industry that's gaining jobs in Sacramento: the financial sector, which added 400 jobs due to the uptick in real estate activity. It was only the third time since 2006 that financial services added jobs, said EDD labor market consultant Diane Patterson.

The state numbers suggest "the worst is behind us but we're not out of the woods yet," said Dennis Meyers, an economist at the state Department of Finance.

But there are still many trouble spots. Construction employment fell by nearly 10,000 in California, showing that a turnaround in homebuilding is still a ways off. Single-family housing starts in the Sacramento region fell during the month, according to the California Building Industry Association.

The numbers also suggest a slowdown in the health-care industry, which had been a reliable job creator even as other industries faltered. Kaiser Permanente recently cut 1,850 jobs statewide. "We could always count on (health care) while everything else was going down," said Michael Bernick, a former EDD director and now a senior fellow with the Milken Institute.

California was tied with Oregon for the fourth-highest unemployment rate in the nation. Michigan was No. 1 at 15 percent, followed by Rhode Island (12.7 percent) and Nevada (12.5 percent).

Stephen Levy, who runs the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy, said in a report that California is still doing "worse than the nation." He added that he saw little hope for optimism in the July numbers.0

 The news came amid further signs of easing of the national recession. The stock market soared after the National Association of Realtors announced better-than-expected home sales for July and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said the economy is about to begin a recovery.


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