California Unemployment Rate Jumps To 9.3 Percent

SACRAMENTO (AP) - California's unemployment rate jumped to 9.3
percent in December, capping a tumultuous year of massive job losses and a housing slump that has struck most of the country.

The jobless rate announced Friday by the state Employment Development Department represents a jump from the 8.4 percent
figure in November 2008.

Excluding farmworkers, California lost 78,200 jobs in December as employers sliced payrolls to deal with the slowing economy.

California's unemployment rate hasn't been at this level since January 1994, when the state was coming out of its recession in the early part of that decade, said Stephen Levy, senior economist for the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy.

"California, like the nation, is in the midst of a terrible and deepening recession," Levy said. "We all expect the job losses to continue and unemployment rates to go higher."

The national unemployment rate jumped to 7.2 percent in December.

About 1.7 million Californians were looking for work last month - up by 166,000 since November and up 653,000 since December 2007. Some 785,200 were laid off, while 125,300 chose to leave their
job. The rest were either temporarily employed or new job seekers.

The construction sector, hit hard by the housing slump and foreclosures, accounted for the most job cuts over the past year-
92,600 positions, a 10.8 percent annual drop.

The latest job figures followed a revised loss of 73,500 payroll jobs in November. That means California has lost nearly 152,000 jobs in the last two months.

The state's unemployment rate was 5.9 percent a year ago. California labor leaders said the skyrocketing job losses should persuade Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and state lawmakers to expand the state's unemployment insurance system and provide benefits to seasonal and new workers. That would make California eligible for an additional $900 million as part of a federal economic stimulus bill Congress is considering, said Art Pulaski, executive
secretary-treasurer of the California Labor Federation.

"It's crucial that we update our unemployment system to ensure benefits get to those who need it most," Pulaski said in a statement.
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(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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