Placer joining national jobless swoon

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Placer County is joining the nation in a tightening job squeeze. On a nationwide scale, a triple whammy of housing, credit and financial crises is causing even Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke to say the nation's economy could be moving in the direction of recession. In Placer County, a once-buoyant economy built around a booming housing industry and rising property values has retreated, leading to increasing numbers of jobless workers. Within the county, the unemployment rate has risen from 4.8 percent a year ago to 5.6 percent over the past year. New numbers for March will be released by the state Employment Development Department later this month and economists are predicting a downward trend to continue following a federal Labor Department jobs report Friday showing further declines. Employers slashed 80,000 jobs in March, the most in five years and the third straight month of losses. At the same time, the national unemployment rate rose from 4.8 percent to 5.1 percent, The Associated Press reported. The national jobless rate could climb to 5.5 per or higher by the end of this year, according to some analysts' projections reported by AP. It's frustrating, said a jobless Tracy Bockmann of Auburn. After more than 10 years of retail, food service and healthcare jobs in the area, Bockmann found herself without work for the first time last September. Bockmann, 29, said unemployment insurance payments that netted her $256 a week after taxes ran out last month. With a baby on the way and her fiancé also seeking any job he can find, she said she's been willing to take nearly anything. She even applied to wave a sign for minimum wage on Highway 49 for an accounting business but was turned down after the prospective employer found out she was in her eighth month of pregnancy. Bockmann said that until recently, jobs had been easy to come by. I've never been this way before, Bockmann said. I'm so frustrated. It's hard. It's not as easy as I thought. We just want to work. People already holding down jobs are also feeling the pressure of a slowing economy. Auburn Library is one local destination for people looking for work or needing to refresh resumes on job search Web sites. The library provides free online access, which is a boon for people without computers. The nearest state Employment Development Department is in Roseville but it provides internet-based services. Auburn hairdresser Madonna Garcia was online at the library updating her resume. It's slowing down where I'm at, Garcia said. I'm looking to further my career and find something with benefits. Library Assistant Karri Samson said the library's computers seem to almost always be in use, with job seekers matching mouse clicks with after-school game players and people doing their taxes. We get quite a few people filling out unemployment forms, Samson said. Regionally, the unemployment rate for the Employment Development Department's El Dorado, Placer, Sacramento and Yolo county statistical area has risen from 5.4 percent a year ago to 6.2 percent. Spokesman Diane Patterson's overview shows the loss of construction jobs was a leading cause of the increase. A total of 4,000 jobs were lost, year over year. The drop was from 66,000 jobs to 62,000. Among the other leading decliners for the region over the past year were motor vehicle and parts dealers (down 5.8 percent in job totals), building material and garden equipment stores (off 7.9 percent), credit businesses not related to banks (minus 13.2 percent) and the accommodation industry (down 6.6 percent). Those job losses were partly offset by a boost in state government jobs of 5.3 percent and a 2.4 percent increase in county jobs in the area. Neighboring counties are feeling an even tighter employment squeeze. The unemployment rate in El Dorado County is 6.3 percent, while Nevada County has a 6 percent rate. Sacramento County's jobless rate is 6.1 percent. The Journal's Gus Thomson can be reached at The Associated Press contributed to this report. Unemployed in Placer County February 2008 9,900 unemployed Ranked 17th in state for 5.6 percent unemployment rate State average was 5.4 percent 2006 Monthly average was 7,200 4.2 percent rate ranked 9th in the state State average was 4.9 percent February 2007 8,300 unemployed 16th place ranking in the state on 4.8 percent unemployment rate State average was 5.4 percent January 2008 10,300 unemployed 5.9 percent rate ranked 14th lowest among counties State average was 6.4 percent