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Unemployment in California surges to 6.2 percent

By Dale Kasler - dkasler@sacbee.com, 4/18/08, Sacramento Bee

Unemployment shot up a half-percent to 6.2 percent in California last month, the highest rate in almost four years, the state Employment Development Department said Friday.

The numbers reflect a deepening of the state's economic problems. Although employers added 1,000 jobs during March, there was little sense that things are improving.

"Not a whole lot of good here," said Howard Roth, chief economist at the state Department of Finance.

Stephen Levy, director of the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy, said only two states have higher unemployment rates, Michigan and Alaska. He said California probably is in "a mild recession."

The unemployment was the highest since it hit 6.2 percent in July 2004, before the housing boom drove rates to below 5 percent. Now the housing bubble has burst, eliminating thousands of jobs in construction and finance. The March numbers show further evidence that the slowdown is trickling into other industries. Retail employment, for instance, fell by 1,400 statewide during March.

Sacramento-area unemployment rose three-tenths of a percent to 6.5 percent in March. That was the highest rate since it was 6.6 percent in January 1997, in the aftermath of the '90s recession.


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