Nevada County unemployment rate reaches record high | SierraSun.com

Nevada County unemployment rate reaches record high

Michelle Rindels
Sun News Service

NEVADA COUNTY, Calif. and#8212; Nevada County’s job prospects were summed up Friday by the cardboard sign carried by a ponytailed, bored-looking man at the edge of the Save Mart parking lot in Grass Valley:

and#8220;Need work. Please help.and#8221;

The county set an unhappy record with March’s unemployment figures: 12.3 percent of the workforce is jobless, the highest rate in 20 years of record-keeping by the California Employment Development Department, which released the March figures Friday.

The rate is up from 11.9 percent in February and 12.1 percent in January. While the county’s numbers look slightly better than the state rate of 12.6 percent, they quantify an unwelcome backslide.

and#8220;We’re headed for another dip,and#8221; said Grass Valley resident Robert Ingram, who saw three of his 10 co-workers at Sierra Pacific Industries lose their jobs last year.

He’s seen construction dry up and, with it, demand for the lumber his company processes.

The worst isn’t over; he worries as his employer shifts work to Washington state and trims back the California workforce because operating costs up north are lower.

Construction, wholesale trade and hospitality were among the county’s biggest job losers in March.

Government showed a gain, driven by new census hires. But those jobs last two to eight weeks and don’t reflect permanent economic recovery.

and#8220;It does make a difference in the pocketbooks of the workers,and#8221; said census spokesman Sonny Le. and#8220;It does provide relief for a whole lot of people who’ve been unemployed.and#8221;

Meanwhile, a steady stream of people are enrolling for public benefits such as Medi-Cal and food stamps.

In March, a total of 16,300 people in Nevada County were receiving some type of public assistance and#8212; about 17 percent of the total population.

Recession years attract a different crowd than plentiful years.

and#8220;We’ve seen a different demographic and#8212; the individual who has never applied for public assistance or is recently unemployed,and#8221; said Nevada County Department of Social Services Director Alison Lehman.

A Nevada City woman shopping at Save Mart Friday afternoon, who identified herself as Julie, said her husband had been out of work for a year. An architect, he has found part-time work off and on, but the only steady job in sight has been staying home and taking care of his daughter.

and#8220;It’s frustrating, but what can you do?and#8221; Julie said. and#8220;In these times, there’s a lot of need, and people need to share and help each other.and#8221;