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California unemployment rate stabilizes

March 26, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
State unemployment figures were released Friday. Who would have guessed anyone would be happy to see the rate holding at 12.5 percent for the second straight month? It's hard to see a positive spin in double-digit unemployment. But many people point out California's jobless rate in February holding steady at 12.5 percent is better than the number going up again.

"We looking like we're finally seeing an unemployment rate that is stabilizing and that's good news because, really, that has to occur first before you can see any kind of job recovery beginning," said Loree Levy, a spokesman for the California Employment Development Department.

Lita Munich thinks the job market is starting to open up. The unemployed family therapist has started getting callbacks for interviews.

"They said something like: 'Would you mind, I know this is short notice. I don't know if you can come. Would you be available Monday?' I go: 'I'm there,'" said Munich.

But the next few weeks could provide huge setbacks for California.

New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. (NUMMI), a joint venture between GM and Toyota, is the state's last car manufacturer. NUMMI is set to close next week, with 4,700 people losing their jobs. It's the single largest layoff in California since the recession began.

Friday, a worker videotaped the very last Tacoma truck rolling off the line, making unemployment a heartbreaking reality.

"I got 18 years. This is our family. Everybody here is our family. I got two kids to take care of. It's tough," said Tim Watson, who is newly unemployed.

Thousands more jobs at other companies are also ending because NUMMI doesn't need their products anymore.

Business leaders say with costs so high in California and regulations too burdensome, those positions won't be coming back any time soon.

"If California doesn't do something to turn that around, we feel like the unemployment rate will continue to go up," said Gino DiCaro, vice president of communications for the California Manufacturers and Technology Association.