County sees 10.3 percent jobless rate

Retail hard hit as shoppers tighten their purse strings
By: Gloria Young, Journal Staff Writer
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The jobless rate in Placer County has climbed into the double digits, the highest it has been in at least 20 years. The 10.3 percent unemployment rate in February reflects an increase from 9.7 percent in January and 5.6 percent a year ago. Statewide unemployment was 10.9 percent in February, according to Employment Development Department statistics. “It went up comparative to national and state trends,” said Diane Patterson, Sierra foothills labor market analyst for EDD. According to EDD labor market records since 1990, Placer County’s unemployment rate reached a previous high of 9.4 percent in January 1993 (EDD records are not available for 2004 to 2006). Auburn resident Katie Mellott has been searching for a job since last August. “I was in retail,” she said this week. “The schedule and hours didn’t work for me because I have a daughter.” Mellott, who is hoping to find something permanent in the clerical field, said she has applied for numerous jobs and had several interviews. In the meantime, she’s had little bit of luck. CalWorks recently placed her in a temporary position at the Auburn One-Stop Career Center. Colfax resident Phil Sargent visited the career center this week. “I’ve been coming here for about six months,” he said. Sargent previously was a prosthetics technician in Grass Valley and would like to find something else in the medical field. He said he’s taking some night courses to increase his qualifications. He has sent out applications and had a few prospects, but nothing local. “It’s a very spread-out field,” he said. “I’ve had several opportunities to work out of state.” The job losses are being felt in most sectors of the economy. “It’s not just in construction and finance, but in consumer-oriented industries,” Patterson said. “That has been seen for some time. What is more telling is, year over year, transportation and utilities lost the most.” Patterson, who monitors employment for the Sacramento-El Dorado-Yolo-Placer region, said retail has also been hard hit, as consumers tighten their hold on their pocketbooks. Retail alone shed 9,200 of the 13,300 jobs lost in the four-county area. “The largest decline in the retail subsector was in miscellaneous store retailers,” she said. That translates to florists, office supply, gift and novelty stores, Patterson explained. However, at least one Auburn business is bucking that trend. Walker’s Office Supply on Highway 49, which celebrates 50 years in business this summer, has actually added an office furniture outlet this year. The store recently completed reorganization of the building, turning 1,500 square feet of space once used for offices into the furniture sales area. “Since times are tough, people aren’t looking to spend a whole lot of money on new stuff,” sales employee Robert Perez said recently. “So why not buy something with a scratch on it? You’re going to get a scratch on it anyway.” Not all areas are losing workers. Leisure and hospitality, education, health services and government are growing. “Year over year, education and health services added 3,700 jobs (in the region),” Patterson said. “(That sector) has actually led industry growth for the ninth consecutive month.” Because of high volume, EDD has extended Unemployment Insurance Call Center operations to Saturdays, to help manage the volume. This week, the state Legislature voted to extend unemployment benefits by 20 weeks. The Journal’s Gloria Young can be reached at ---------- Unemployment — by the numbers Placer County’s jobless rate ranks 17th lowest among the 58 counties for February. Marin ranked first with the lowest rate — 6.8 percent. The highest unemployment rate was in Colusa County, with 26.6 percent, and Imperial County with 24.5 percent. Unemployment insurance benefits Fastest way to file a claim is through Web site Use the same application to claim regular benefits or, if you’ve exhausted those, for a federal extension claim. If you do not have a computer at home, visit the local library or a One-Stop Career Center, or call 1-877-872-5627 (TTY: 1-877-889-5627). (Source COBRA continuation health insurance To be eligible for COBRA coverage, you must have been enrolled in your employer’s health plan when you worked and the health plan must continue to be in effect for active employees. COBRA continuation coverage is available upon the occurrence of a qualifying event that would cause an individual to lose his or her health care coverage. Filing for COBRA — Health plan rules must explain how to obtain benefits and must include written procedures for processing claims. Claims procedures must be described in the Summary Plan Description. (Source Resources for job seekers Golden Sierra One-Stop Career Center, 11548 E Ave., DeWitt Center, Auburn; Phone (530) 823-4631; Hours – 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. and 1 to 4:30 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Web site www. 49er ROP, 360 Nevada St., Auburn; phone (530) 889-5949; Web site www. William Jessup University Career Fair Job seekers have an opportunity to attend the William Jessup University career fair, being held from 9 a.m. to noon Tuesday, March 31. Approximately 20 employers have signed up, including the California Highway Patrol, State Board of Equalization and the Placer County Sheriff’s Department, according to Anita Hermsmeier, Success Center director at William Jessup and coordinator of the job fair. “This will be the third time we’ve opened it to the public,” she said. “Each time, a few more attend.”