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California unemployment rate falls to 9 percent

May 17, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
California's unemployment rate has sharply dropped to 9 percent for the first time in nearly 4 1/2 years.

The state Employment Development Department announced the new numbers Friday.

The last time California's unemployment rate was below 10 percent occurred in November 2008, nearly a year after the recession began.

According to the report, California has added more than 273,000 jobs since April 2012. The department reported California added more than 10,000 jobs last month.

The construction industry led the hiring surge. There were 7,400 jobs added in April and 44,800 throughout 2012, signaling a renewed strength in the state housing market.

"This is definitely consistent with a pattern of economic recovery and that's what's important," said Loree Levy of the California Employment Development Department. "Over the year, our unemployment rate has come down 1.7 percent so it's definitely trending in the right direction."

The survey found jobs increased in the construction, manufacturing, trade, financial services, leisure, education and hospitality sectors. But information, government and professional and business services slipped over the previous month.

It's the 22nd straight month of job growth. The number of people who are actively searching for work and considered unemployed in California fell to 1.7 million in April. But 10,000 new jobs is less than half the number created in March which means hiring has slowed. That may be an indication that companies are uncertain about the economy.

Even Governor Brown is concerned about California's economy. Earlier this week, he released a much more conservative state budget plan that cuts back on spending.

Job seeker Marcia Chante has been wondering what's happening. The unemployed office worker wants to believe things are finally looking up.

"I keep hearing that the job market is getting better and there are jobs out there for us that the economy is opening up. I'm out there still and I cannot find a job," said Chante.

She agrees with skeptics that unemployment has dropped dramatically, not because there are that many new jobs, but because more people have quit looking.

"They're depressed because of what has happened so they're giving up," said Chante.

The public sector also continues to be a drag. The federal sequestration cuts are forcing the state's Employment Development Department to reduce its call center hours by half.

Phones will be answered only from 8 a.m. to 12 noon starting Monday.

It's already difficult to talk to a live person. A 2011 report found 84 percent of calls didn't get through.

"As it is, it's hard to get in contact with somebody," said job seeker Roberto Rodriguez. "And they're going to cut hours down? What's going to happen?"

EDD says most of the commonly asked questions are easily answered on its website. For more information, visit www.edd.ca.gov.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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