Labor Day blues |

Labor Day blues

As barbecues light, beverages fizz open and children shout for attention as they leap into the water, many Nevada County residents can enjoy Labor Day off of work.

Some, though, are wishing for a job to return to come Tuesday morning.

Grass Valley’s Carol Leonard pushed a cart full of barbecue fixings – hot dogs, brats and baked beans – from the Save Mart in Grass Valley Sunday. She said the recession has altered her family’s holiday habits.

“We used to take the family out for dinner on Labor Day,” she said. Leonard, who is retired, said her retirement fund isn’t looking as plush as it used to with the stock market’s continued hiccups. “We’re playing it safe instead of sorry. We can feed everyone on the cheap. It’s a little more work, but less money.”

Nevada County, like all but a handful of California’s 58 counties, is mired in double-digit unemployment figures as the current recession continues to stretch on. In July 11.7 percent of the county’s 51,000-plus person workforce was out of a job, according to the most recent statistics available from the California Economic Development Department.

Looking past the unemployment figures, the recession – which began in earnest in late 2007 – continues to give off mixed signals of a potential recovery. Housing prices have remained low but lenders continue to tighten credit requirements, scaring some away from the housing market. Employment figures rose in some sectors last month, but nationally the unemployment rate rose for the first time in four months.

Many Californians who are out of work have been that way for a long time, according to the EDD. Over 40 percent of the state’s unemployed population are called “long-term unemployed,” meaning they have been out of work for more than 27 weeks. As development ground to a halt locally over the past few years, contractors slashed jobs. People in the building trades are among the hardest hit in Nevada County, according to the EDD.

California, heavily dependent on jobs in building and real estate, suffered from 12.8 percent unemployment in July – far worse than the U.S. rate of 9.6 percent, and better only than neighboring Nevada (14.3 percent) and Michigan (13.1 percent) according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The news isn’t all gloomy, though. Private hiring rose nationally in July, adding 67,000 jobs, higher than analyst’s projections.

In contrast, the local jobs picture grew worse from June to July, as Nevada County’s unemployment rate increased from 11.5 to 11.7 percent on the heels of about 590 layoffs at the local and federal government levels, according to the EDD. The state didn’t shed any jobs in the county over the same period.

To contact Staff Writer Kyle Magin, e-mail or call (530) 477-4239.

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