Nevada County jobless rate hits 2-decade high |

Nevada County jobless rate hits 2-decade high

Liz Kellar and Trina Kleist
Staff Writers

Employees at Grocery Outlet, the bargain-priced market in Grass Valley, haven’t been seeing many signs of an economic recovery in Nevada County.

“The most common question I hear is, ‘Is it always this busy?'” said cashier Lisa Daniels. “The worse the economy, the better our business is. That’s the sad part.”

Daniels said she’s seen a steady increase in customers in the last two years, including a lot more people with food stamps.

“People say, ‘If you don’t have it, we don’t eat it,'” she said.

Nevada County finished 2009 with an overall jobless rate of 11.1 percent – the highest unemployment rate since 1990, according to state figures. That number was a dramatic increase from the 6.6 percent unemployment rate for 2008.

Placer County is in similar straits, with an overall jobless rate of 11.1 percent for 2009; Yuba County’s jobless rate in 2009 was a whopping 18.1 percent.

With jobless claims for benefits nationally holding steady at 9.7 percent for February, and California unemployment at 12.5 percent for January, local officials are waiting for county-by-county figures to be released on Wednesday that will show Nevada County unemployment for January.

“We see an exodus of people looking for work,” said Michael Hall of the Nevada County Economic Resource Council, who compiles data and helps with employment analysis.

As the recession continues, Nevada County residents are suffering from the area’s worst job market in two decades.

Joblessness in the county stood at 4.8 percent in 1990, with the highest previous rate at 8.5 percent during the last big recession in 1992 and 1993, according to data from the state Employment Development Department. The lowest jobless rate for the period was 4.1 percent in 1999 and 2000, during a long boom period that started ending in 2007.

California’s unemployment rate increased slightly to 12.5 percent in January, the state EDD reported Friday. But the state also revised its December job numbers to show that about 300,000 additional jobs were lost that month.

The state’s unemployment rate in December was 12.3 percent. Officials had previously reported December’s unemployment rate at 12.4 percent, but revised that figure Friday.

Despite the increase in unemployment in January, the state added 32,500 jobs. The construction industry saw the largest increase with an additional 16,200 jobs.

The information, financial activities, and professional and business services industries were the only ones that lost jobs.

“It is a sign that the sector worst hurt by this recession, the construction industry, may finally be growing again,” said Jed Kolko, associate director at the Public Policy Institute of California. “The increase in employment that we see now is consistent with the slow increase in housing prices in California that has been recently reported.”

But those positive numbers should be read with caution, one economist said, because the state significantly revised the number of jobs that were lost in December. California had 13.8 million jobs in December, revised from the 14.1 million that was previously reported.

That means the state had 300,000 fewer jobs in December than previously thought.

Stephen Levy, director of the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy, sees a faint light at the end of the tunnel.

“I do think that we are at the beginning of a recovery,” Levy said. “But it shows … that we’re starting at a lower point than we previously thought. So we have farther to dig out.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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