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Job numbers down, but some sectors up

September 18, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
It's a record no one wanted to set. California's jobless rate has reached the highest point since the Great Depression. But there may also be some encouraging signs in the numbers.The latest jobless figures are out and they are sobering. Last month California's unemployment rate hit a modern record high 12.2 percent.

That's up three-tenths of a percentage point from July's 11.9 percent. And more than four and a half points higher than August of last year.

However, the rate of job loss has slowed significantly.

The unemployment numbers are gloomy. What areas of the economy are active and which areas are showing a rebound?

At the East Los Angeles WorkSource Center, Jessica Stack may be on the brink of finding work.

"I have taken care of a cancer patient, which I really, really loved, because I got close with the woman, and I've done convalescent homes," said jobseeker Jessica Stack.

Bad as the economy is, the healthcare field needs helpers. The demand is illustrated at a Manpower temp agency. One desk is dedicated to healthcare jobs, another to entertainment.

In fact another area on the rebound is the temp-agency industry. Business is up 15 percent at Manpower. Why temps?

"The customers are looking to put temporary workers into work and into positions that they normally hire full-time and permanent people, but they're looking to just really test the economy right now," said Lee Fossey, Manpower regional director.

"There are good signs on the state level and there are some good signs on the national level that our economy is coming back, that we've bottomed out," said Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Economist Jack Kyser says look for activity in heavy construction, especially mass transit funded by Proposition R and other projects.

"And then you have the federal infrastructure stimulus money that's flowing very slowly, but it is flowing, and so that means bridges, highways, improvements on that side," said Jack Kyser, L.A. Economic Development Corp.

Teaching jobs? Yes, but in higher education and in private schools.

"Everything from the University of Phoenix to Cal Tech," said Kyser.

In the entertainment industry, areas that grew over the last month were motion pictures and sound recording.

To be sure, the first signs showing a thaw in the recession show up in many niche areas requiring special skills.

Jobseeker Jessica Stack aims for more schooling to obtain a nursing license. And Granville Sykes, a job-seeker at the Manpower temp agency, will settle for now for an ushering job with Cirque du Soleil.

"Oh, it will help immensely, because I don't like sitting around at home," said Sykes. "So it's self-esteem, and to be doing something. I've been working all my life. "

A cautionary word from Jack Kyser: Many companies may show gains by the end of the year, but they are going to wait until there are much stronger signs of stability before they start hiring permanent workers.

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