Monday, January 26, 2009

... but at least we aren't Fresno, LOL

Kern's unemployment soars to 11.8 percent
BY COURTENAY EDELHART, Californian staff writer | Friday, Jan 23 2009 10:30 AM

Last Updated: Friday, Jan 23 2009 5:05 PM

The unemployment rate in Kern County soared to 11.8 percent in December, up from 10.4 percent in November and above the same time last year, when the rate was 9.4 percent. Figures the California Employment Development Department released Friday show the rate here was higher than other regions. It was 9.1 percent statewide and 7.1 percent nationally.

Laid-off warehouse worker Stephen Van Dyke, 22, is among the job-seekers.

“I’ve had a few interviews, but nothing too promising yet,” said the married father of eight. “I’m just trying to keep the faith.”

Kern saw a year-over-year gain of 900 jobs, 800 of which were unrelated to farming. But from November to December, it lost 1,800 jobs, half in agriculture, half not.

The majority of year-over-year job gains (900) were in natural resources and mining, which includes the oil industry, followed by 300 government jobs. But both of those sectors are weakening.

City and county governments have implemented hiring freezes for all but the most critical positions. Filling vacancies will be decided on a case-by-case basis.

Carl Toney, 55, took advantage of his time out of the work force to return to school and complete a physical education degree. Since then he’s submitted more than 30 applications to all levels of government.

“I only got one response back, and it was a denial,” he said. “At first I thought it was my age, but now I’m wondering if it’s just the economy.”

The most job losses in Kern were in leisure and hospitality, which lost 800 positions. Another 300 jobs were lost in construction.

Former radio personality Rhonda Hunt, 45, has worked odd jobs since 2003, when she was badly injured in a car accident. Her last job was at a restaurant, but she’s been out of work almost three years.

“I can’t do too much bending or lifting, which is a problem, especially in retail,” she said. “I’ve been really diligent about looking, but the reception’s been cold, for me and a lot of others.

“I know a lot of good, highly educated people who are out there who are having a difficult time getting a job.”

Unemployment insurance claims are soaring.

In the week ended Jan. 17, seasonally adjusted new requests for unemployment insurance were at 589,000, an increase of 62,000 from the previous week’s revised figure of 527,000, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

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