Dismal Job Growth Nothing New In California

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The good news is that unemployment rate in California dropped down to 10.9 percent for the month of April. The bad news is that a million more workers were unemployed in April compared to a pre-recession low in October 2006. The new numbers suggest a lurching recovery without any sustained momentum.


While today's jobs report is certainly grim, things are not bad everywhere. To get a sense of how varied the employment picture is from state to state and town to town, we have three reports now from the West. We begin in California where the unemployment rate is the third highest in the nation. It dipped slightly last month but only because discouraged workers gave up looking for work. Here's NPR's Richard Gonzales.

RICHARD GONZALES, BYLINE: The unemployment rate runs just under 11 percent in California, so the dismal job growth numbers are no news to 57-year-old Gloria Nieto of San Jose.

GLORIA NIETO: I'm in Silicon Valley. It's - there's supposed to be lots of opportunities, but there isn't.

GONZALES: Nieto lost her job running a nonprofit three years ago. Even with her extensive administrative experience, she says she can't get a job interview anymore. Nieto is convinced that she's aged out of the job market.

NIETO: There are so many people I went to high school with that are having the exact same thing, and we're having our 40th reunion this year, and we're all like, what happened?

GONZALES: What happened to Nieto sounds like a cascade of dominos: job loss, unemployment benefits expired, bankruptcy, her house slipped away in a short sale.

NIETO: The self-esteem, the psychological damage of being long-term unemployed, the country is going to feel this for a very, very long time.

GONZALES: Fifty-year-old Edwin Veltman of Oakland, a computer programmer, was laid off seven years ago, and he thought it would be just a matter of time before he found full-time work again. All he found were sporadic freelance jobs.

EDWIN VELTMAN: There were some rough patches where I wasn't making enough money to really pay my bills, so I was falling further into debt.

GONZALES: But Veltman recently found full-time work with benefits.

EDWIN VELTMAN: Looking for a job in itself is a job, so it can actually be a really tough job.

GONZALES: Veltman says what he's learned is that not having work is the toughest job of all. Richard Gonzales, NPR News, San Francisco.

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