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California unemployment drops to 12 percent

April 15, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
California's unemployment rate dipped again in March. It's still high, at 12 percent, but that's the lowest it has been since September 2009.

March marked the third straight monthly decline in California's jobless rate.

Erin Bertoni has felt the pain of this recession, sending out resume after resume online.

"You go to screen after screen after screen and then submit, and then you hope," said Bertoni.

There are some encouraging signs from California's new unemployment number that suggest companies are beginning to hire.

Despite a loss of 11,000 jobs last month, the jobless rate dropped a bit.

For March, the number stood at 12 percent, the lowest figure since September 2009. That's one-tenth of a percent lower than February, but nearly half a percentage point lower than a year ago.

Some of that drop shows that more people are getting hired.

In the last year, California gained 188,000 jobs -- small when compared to the more than a million jobs the state lost during the heart of the economic downturn. But it's a start if we truly are in a "U-shaped" recession.

"What we're seeing in the trend are job gains. In fact, an average of 26,000 a month over the last six months. So that's big news. And in fact that's even better than what we're doing on a national scale," said Loree Levy, spokesperson for the California Employment Development Department.

And more people working is great news for California's deficit-ridden budget. Revenues are already $2 billion above forecast.

"Making money brings more, in term of income taxes," said California State Controller John Chiang. "If people are making more wages, they can go and spend more, so more sales taxes. And if they're also spending, that means more corporate taxes."

But this slow job growth isn't happening fast enough to erase the remaining $14-billion deficit.

It may mean fewer budget cuts if more taxes keep coming into state coffers.

After receiving multiple job offers, Erin Bertoni will soon be one more Californian contributing when she starts her new job next week as an executive assistant.

"Yeah, I'm really excited," said Bertoni. "I got on with a really good company. They're a worldwide company. I'm making more money than I've ever made in my life."

Despite the positive signs, 2.1 million Californians are still out of work. As the government sector deals with deficits, any job losses there could drag down any gains.