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California unemployment rate falls slightly in February

March 9, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
By any standards, the unemployment rate remains painfully high. But it has been dropping both nationwide and in California.

The rate may be dropping, but it's hard to see the bright side of if you're part of the 2 million Californians out of work, half of whom have been unemployed for at least six months.

After a year since his last full-time permanent job, Michael Owens decided to try something different. The unemployed project manager stood on a busy corner with resumes in hand and a sign that says "Hire Me." He says it's better than applying online.

"No feedback. Very few calls. Sometimes I wonder why. I've got a pretty impressive resume," said Owens.

Despite the frustration Owens and 2 million other unemployed Californians are feeling, the state's latest jobless numbers are encouraging.

For the first time in nearly three years, the unemployment rate dropped below 11 percent to 10.9 percent. That's a small drop from December when it was 11.2 percent, but still much higher than the national rate of 8.3 percent.

While the dip is good news, the public sector continues to struggle.

"Private sector growth has been very consistent and stable," said Loree Levy, spokesman for the California Employment Development Dept. "It's government that's been dragging down the economy. We lost more than 41,000 jobs in government over the year."

We first met Nicholas Losito at the unemployment office back in the fall of 2008. He worked for two and a half years, but recently lost his job again. It's understandable the bereavement counselor is not excited about the lower jobless rate.

"It's very frustrating, scary, it's draining. I feel like I've been filleted," said Losito.

It's a feeling Michael Owens knows too well.

"I just want to get an interview," said Owens. "An on-street interview would be perfect."

March 15 is the deadline to give layoff notices to public school teachers that they're being laid off. Because the state's finances are still a mess, pink slips are expected to number in the thousands statewide.