California unemployment rate at 12.3 percent

Data released Aug. 20 shows more than 2.2 million Californians are out of work

California's unemployment numbers held steady in July at 12.3 percent, with more than 2.2 million Californians out of work, but remained stubbornly higher than the national average, according to data released Friday (Aug. 20) by the state's Employment Development Department.

The U.S. unemployment rate also remained unchanged in July at 9.5 percent. Over the past 12 months, the state's unemployment rate has risen by 0.5 percentage points, up from 11.8 percent in July 2009. Approximately 100,000 more residents are unemployed now compared to this time last year.

The state experienced a net loss of 9,400 non-farm jobs in July, compared to 24,000 jobs shed the month before, according to a survey of businesses that is separate from a federal survey of households from which the unemployment rate is derived.

Although five sectors experienced growth -- including construction, education and transportation -- equally as many categories of jobs reported losses that cancelled out those gains. Bay Area counties generally experienced below average unemployment rates compared to the statewide average. Solano County was the exception, with 12.4 percent of its 217,000 workers unemployed. Marin County, with a smaller work force of 131,000, had the lowest unemployment rate in the Bay Area at 8.6 percent.

Only three of the nine Bay Area counties had unemployment rates that were at or below the national average, including San Mateo at 9.4 percent. Fewer people are receiving unemployment benefits, down 146,000 compared with this time last year, and new claims for unemployment insurance also decreased slightly, down by almost 4,200 applications.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger issued a statement in response to the monthly report in which he challenged state representatives to recharge the state economy by reforming the budget.

"In order for California to experience a full recovery, there must be robust hiring in the private sector," Schwarzenegger said in the statement.

At a time when the Legislature has locked horns over finalizing the state budget, which is 50 days late of the July 1 deadline, Schwarzenegger said that recovery hinges on a "responsible budget" without tax increases. Schwarzenegger, who has staunchly opposed tax increases, said private sector businesses should not be asked to subsidize public sector wages and retirement benefits, arguing that the "additional burdens on employers will stymie growth."

— Bay City News Service

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