Monday, December 22, 2008

Calif. unemployment rate jumps to 8.4 percent

Calif. unemployment rate jumps to 8.4 percent

By MARCUS WOHLSEN

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California's unemployment rate climbed to 8.4 percent in November, the third-highest rate in the nation, federal officials said Friday.

The jobless rate announced by the U.S. Department of Labor was up from 5.7 percent a year earlier, and 8.2 percent in October. Only Michigan and Rhode Island posted higher jobless rates than California.

The agency said California shed 41,700 jobs last month, bringing the total jobs lost over the past year to 136,000. Florida and North Carolina were the only states to lose more jobs in November.

The U.S. unemployment rate rose to 6.7 percent in November -- a 15-year high. The nation lost 533,000 jobs last month, the largest monthly job loss in 34 years.

Just over 15 million Californians held payroll jobs last month. The number of people unemployed in California rose to 1.56 million, up by more than a half-million since November 2007, state officials said.

Of those unemployed, 679,200 were laid off, 97,200 left their jobs voluntarily, and the remaining were new to the labor market last month.

The jump in joblessness comes as California's unemployment insurance fund teeters on the brink of insolvency. The fund is expected to have a deficit of $2.4 billion at the end of 2009.

To keep unemployment checks coming, the state may have to borrow from the federal government for only the second time since the program was established in the 1930s.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger cited Friday's numbers after vowing to veto an $18 billion deficit reduction plan that Democrats pushed through the Legislature on Thursday. The Republican governor said the plan didn't include the economic stimulus package he demanded.

"I've said countless times that any budget plan sent to my desk must include real stimulus that creates jobs," Schwarzenegger said in a statement Friday.

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