California jobless rate swells to 12.6 percent |

California jobless rate swells to 12.6 percent

Don Thompson
The Associated Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif. and#8212; California’s unemployment rate hit a modern record of 12.6 percent in March, though it rose only a fraction over the previous month, the state Employment Development Department reported Friday.

Non-farm payroll jobs increased by 4,200 as the economy shows signs of life. It was the third consecutive month that California added jobs, gaining 32,400 jobs so far this year.

More than 2.3 million Californians remained unemployed, with 362,000 more people jobless than a year ago.

California’s jobless rate grew from 12.5 percent in February after holding steady for a month. The rate was 10.6 percent in March 2009.

Howard Roth, chief economist for the state Department of Finance, said the unemployment rate appears to be at or near its peak.

It was the first time since mid-2007 that the state saw job gains for three consecutive months. The department previously had reported a job loss in February, but revised those numbers Friday based on new data.

“I think this is for real,” Roth said of the economic rebound. “We’re seeing it in other statistics as well, personal income, taxable sales and housing prices.”

The state lost an average of 115,000 jobs a month in the first quarter of 2009, compared with gains each month this year. There was growth in five of the 11 jobs sectors in March: mining and logging, manufacturing, education, health services and hospitality.

“It’s a sign that people are at least feeling there are jobs, and they can actually look for a job,” said Kevin Callori, spokesman for the Employment Development Department.

The construction, information, government, financial and professional services sectors lost jobs last month.

Roth expects the state’s unemployment rate to remain high through 2011 in part because more people will start looking for jobs but may not find them right away. He noted the national unemployment rate, which remained unchanged at 9.7 percent in March, was down from its peak of 10.1 percent in October.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said he is encouraged but said in a statement that the state needs to focus on training employees and giving employers incentives to hire them.

Michigan leads the nation with a 14.1 percent unemployment rate, followed by Nevada at 13.4 percent.

California was tied with Rhode Island for the third-highest jobless rate.

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