Monday, 20 May 2024

March report shows another rise in unemployment

LAKE COUNTY – Unemployment rates continued edging upward in March, according to the newest unemployment numbers released on Friday.


The Employment Development Department (EDD) reported that Lake County's March unemployment rate was 16.5 percent, up from 15.8 percent in February. That March number is up significantly from March 2008, when unemployed measured 10.4 percent.

The February to March jump was far less dramatic than the December to January jump in local unemployment, which went from 13.8 percent to 16 percent, as Lake County News reported.

Statewide, unemployment was up to 11.2 percent in March,rising from 10.6 percent in February, the EDD reported. The state's March 2008 unemployment rate was 6.4 percent.

The county with the highest unemployment is once again Colusa, with 25.6 percent. Marin had the lowest unemployment, 7.4 percent.

Neighboring counties posted the following unemployment rates: Glenn, 17.1 percent; Mendocino, 11.7 percent; Napa, 9.0 percent; Sonoma, 9.8 percent; Yolo, 12.3 percent.

National unemployment figures for March was 8.5 percent, up from 8.1 percent in February.

The EDD estimated that the number of employed Californians in March was 16,524,000, a decrease of 96,000 from February, and down 578,000 from the employment total in March of last year. New claims for unemployment insurance were 79,979 in March 2009, compared with 76,303 in February and 48,282 in March of last year.

The number of people unemployed in California was 2,080,000 – up by 119,000 over the month, and up by 913,000 compared with March of last year, the agency reported.

Dennis Mullins of the EDD's North Coast labor market statistics division told Lake County News in an interview last month that unemployment rates are approaching those of the early 1980s.

He said those 1980s statistics can't exactly be compared to current unemployment rates, since classifications used for tracking employment have been changed over time, with the last major change to the reporting coming in the late 1990s.

Diana Barry, who manages eight Northern California EDD offices, including Lake's, said the construction trades – which are important to Lake County – have been hard hit, as has trucking. Because of the county's strong agricultural industry, she expects unemployment will drop some as the season picks up.

Barry said people continue seeking extra time to find jobs. “Pretty much everywhere people are applying for the extensions,” she said.

She said the EDD itself doesn't do job retraining, but refers it to another agency. There is money for that effort, she said.

Important months ahead for construction; advice for business owners

The EDD's Friday report noted that construction posted the largest decline in jobs on a percentage basis over the last year, dropping by 18.4 percent or 152,300 jobs.

Keith Woods is chief executive officer of the North Coast Builders Exchange, which covers Lake, Sonoma and Mendocino counties. It's the largest such exchange in the state, with 1,850 members.

He said a massive slowdown is still in place, with a glut of homes on the market that needs to be absorbed before building can start ramping up again. He noted the slowdown also is hitting the commercial building sector.

The period of April through October usually is the construction industry's busiest time, said Woods, and the months ahead will be a telling time. He said it wasn't this bad at this time last year.

He said nobody really knows what to expect.

“If there's going to be signs of a recovery in construction, it will be this next six-month period,” said Woods. If it's still this bad in six months, Woods said the economy will be in serious trouble, and so will contractors.

The association has lost 100 members, with many small contractors hanging on by their fingertips.

Many such contractors are cutting down on their costs and hoping for a rebound, he said. Foreclosed homes may offer big potential for contractors, as many of the homes may need serious repair after sitting on the market empty for a long time.

He said he takes unemployment figures with a grain of salt, noting that they don't show the numbers of self-employed contractors who aren't getting work.

Woods noted that he's seeing more small contractors are pursuing government jobs, which they've stayed away from in better times because of the complex requirements and voluminous paperwork. But right now government is one of the few potential customers that has money to spend.

Lori Peters, executive director of the Clear Lake Chamber of Commerce, said she isn't seeing a lot of additional hiring among community businesses, with most trying hard to save every penny.

However, she added, “I don't foresee that it's going to last very long.”

Peters advises business owners to compare their quarterly reports carefully to last year's. She said many of the businesses she's talked to are doing about the same or slightly better than last year.

Lake County didn't have the big boom seen in urban areas, so things here are business as usual, said Peters.

She advises people to shop local to help the county's economy. “We could make a completely different outcome for ourselves.”

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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