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County’s jobless rate at 10-year high

Alison Lehman is seeing firsthand the impact of Nevada County’s escalating unemployment rate, which is nearly 50 percent higher than a year ago.

As the director of the county’s Department of Social Services, Lehman has watched a growing number of the newly unemployed file into her office in the past nine months to apply for food stamps and other help.

“What’s stood out to me is that there are more employable individuals who are now looking for assistance,” she said Tuesday.



Statistics released by the state’s Economic Development Department reflect what Lehman is seeing at her office.

Nevada County’s June employment rate of 6.6 percent is the highest in 10 years, up from 4.7 percent in June 2007. The county has had six consecutive months where the jobless rates was above 6 percent.




The last time the jobless rate was this high was in January 2004 when it was 6.2 percent. In January 1998, it was 6.9 percent.

Job losses have occurred across the board in Nevada County since June 2007, when the unemployement rate was 4.7 percent.

The natural resources, mining and construction industries have seen their workforces decline by a total of 12.7 percent; leisure and hospitality by 8.5 percent; and retail trade by 5.5 percent in the past 12 months, according to the latest figures.

The construction sector has been hit perhaps the hardest in Nevada County.

Barbara Bashall, executive director of the Nevada County Contractors Association, said the organization’s membership is holding steady at 420 contractors and suppliers, but layoffs still are occurring in the county.

“We’re starting to see a little bit of movement. So the good news is that it’s not totally dead out there,” Bashall said, adding that construction jobs can pay from $15 to $35 an hour.

When there’s a job.

Lehman took surveys in March of people who were seeking food stamps, Medi-Cal or General Assistance.

Of 231 people she surveyed, 129 either were recently unemployed or underemployed. Of those, 19 percent were in construction, 16 percent were medical care-givers, 14 percent were in retail and 13 percent were in food service, she found.

Lehman also knows how competitive the job market is in Nevada County.

Her department recently advertised for a temporary position that paid a base salary of $36,245. They received 95 applications. In the past, the department would get 10 to 15 applications for such a job, Lehman said.

The department also received more than 100 applications for an eligibility worker position that pays $35,819 a year. Normally, around 20 people have sought that job when it has opened up in the past, she said.

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To contact Staff Writer Pat Butler, e-mail pbutler@theunion.com or call 477-4239.


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