County unemployment rate hits new record |

County unemployment rate hits new record

Brian Jones’ eyes were glued to the computer screen Thursday morning at One-Stop Business and Career Center as he scanned the Idaho-Maryland Mine Web site for a job in gold.

Unemployed since October, the 43-year-old heavy-machinery operator is one of the growing number of faces behind Nevada County’s 12.1 percent January jobless rate –

the highest since the state started keeping county-by-county records in 1990.

“This is the worst year ever,” said Jones, dressed in weathered jeans and work boots. “I’ve applied online, but the jobs are just not there … It’s depressing.”

But there’s a silver lining in the black cloud of unemployment – the county’s rate is lower than California overall, and is in the top 15 counties for highest employment.

The numbers were released Wednesday by the state Employment Development Department (EDD).

Rates are best in Mono and Marin counties, and worst for Imperial and Colusa counties. Neighboring Placer County fared just slightly better than Nevada County, with a 12.0 percent jobless rate.

Wealthy pockets, including San Francisco, San Mateo and Orange counties, floated atop the list with rates near 9 percent.

“Their population is highly educated,” said California Department of Finance Chief Economist Howard Roth. “There are a lot of technical workers, and if they get laid off, they don’t stay unemployed for long.”

November 2009 was Nevada County’s previous high, with a 11.8 percent

unemployment rate.

But pushing past 12 percent is jarring.

“Nobody anticipated something like this,” Roth said. “It was a shock. It wasn’t just a typical recession, it was a financial collapse.”

Some signs suggest the soaring unemployment rate could plateau soon, Roth said.

January is usually the most dismal month for unemployment, because stores lay off holiday workers, Roth said. But when sunny days arrive, business owners are more apt to hire new workers or try new things.

“There’s always a renewal of the creative spirit in spring,” Nevada County Economic Resource Council President Gil Mathew said.

That may be too late for some local job seekers, who are considering looking outside the county.

Faye Wright, 55, was using the computers at One-Stop to send off her fourth resume of the day. After she was laid off in October 2008 from her job with the county, she went back to school for nine months to get certified in medical billing.

She graduated in August, but the only work she’s been able to find has been a temporary job with the census.

“I didn’t think it was going to be this hard, especially to stay in this community,” Wright said.

She’s applying to jobs as far south as Lodi and is seriously considering a move.

For now, Wright comes in three days a week to search for jobs. She said she’s hopeful President Obama’s plan to digitize medical records will open up the floodgates for people with her credentials.

“I have my moments,” she said about the frustrating search. “But you’ve got to stay positive.”

Contact Staff Writer Michelle Rindels at or (530) 477-4247.

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