It’s like we are living in some deep South poverty State in the 1930s. California is the new Mississippi when it comes to the unemployed.
By JACK KATZANEK
Unemployment continued to climb in Inland Southern California last month, but some employers in Riverside and San Bernardino counties — and across the state — were hiring in October, a report released Friday stated.
The jobless rate in the Inland counties increased to 14.6 percent in October from 14.3 percent in the previous month, the state Employment Development Department reported. It equaled the highest unemployment rate since the state began keeping county-by-county records in the 1970s, tying a record set in August.
California’s unemployment rate rose to 12.5 percent in October, also an all-time high. There were about 2.3 million people without work in California last month, out of a pool of about 18.4 million workers.
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In the Inland Empire, there were more than 260,000 unemployed people out of a work force of 1,788,200.
Unemployment levels sometimes fluctuate because of factors not directly related to the creation or demise of jobs. The jobless rate for the Inland counties increased last month because more people sought work.
But there were an estimated 8,000 more payroll positions for Inland residents last month than there were in September, suggesting that the economy might be at or close to a level where it bottoms out and begins to stabilize, economist say.
Redlands-based economist John Husing said that some of those newly created jobs were expected because October is usually a month with more hiring.
“But some of it is growth,” Husing said.
The state, after losing an estimated 66,000 jobs one month earlier and 687,000 in the past 12 months, saw 25,000 new jobs in October.
The Inland area is seeing very little recovery in the blue-collar job sectors that fueled more than 10 years of spectacular economic growth. The number of construction jobs fell below 70,000 last month for the first time since 1998. Three years ago, more than 130,000 people put food on their tables because they held construction jobs.
Also, factory jobs are not being created in the Inland Empire. There are 10 percent fewer manufacturing jobs than there were a year ago, when there were more than 100,000.
Octavio Silva was laid off nine months ago when Chicago-based TTX Co. closed its Mira Loma facility that converted double-stacked railroad cars to single-stacked units. Silva, 54, of Riverside, has been a welder for his entire adult life.
“I keep reading about these ‘green jobs,’ but I don’t know where I get training for those jobs,” Silva said.
He and his wife, Donna, 50, wanted to ask about retraining at the Workforce Development Center in Riverside, but that office is closed on Fridays. She said they are surviving on her husband’s unemployment check because of a frugal lifestyle and the home they bought at an affordable price 11 years ago.
“I saw my parents do that,” she said. “They were determined to pay off their house and retire with no debt. They slept well.”
slight job growth
The Inland Empire did see job increases in government and health-care employment last month.
There was also a miniscule increase in work at the Inland area’s temporary agencies, which is often used as a bellwether for an improving economy. Temporary work frequently picks up before the rest of the job market does.
“It’s going to take little things like that,” Husing said. “But maybe we’ve passed the bottom.”
“We’re holding our own,” said Lisa Fuess, president of Cutting Edge Staffing, a Temecula temp agency. “Positions are coming in, but we’re just maintaining at this point.”
The category that covers white-collar jobs in general, ranging from lawyers to office clerks, stayed flat.
October is usually the month retailers and other businesses that rely on the holidays for much of their revenue start bringing in extra people, but the state’s data show only a sliver of new workers at retailers, restaurants and the trucking and distribution industries.
“Either retailers are not counting on a busy holiday or they’re pushing the decision on whether to hire more people into November,” Chapman University economist Esmael Adibi said.
There were 1,154,200 payroll jobs in the two Inland counties last month, 63,500 fewer than in October 2008 and about 130,000 fewer than there were three years ago.
But Adibi said the rate of year-over-year job losses declined in October for the second month in a row, and he said he was very encouraged that California, after its massive job losses, gained some positions last month.
“That’s very, very minute,” Adibi said. “But it’s more important to look at that than at the unemployment number. In order for unemployment to stabilize and go down, we need to have job creation.”
Reach Jack Katzanek at 951-368-9553 or at jkatzanek@PE.com
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