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Placer unemployment climbs

By: Gloria Young, Journal Staff Writer
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As unemployment edges up across the state and the nation, Placer County is feeling the reverberations, too. Statistics released by the U.S. Department of Labor for the county reflect a jobless rate of 7.6 percent for November, compared to 7.4 in October and 5.1 percent a year ago. Statewide, the rate grew from 8.2 percent in October to 8.4 in November, up from 5.7 percent in November 2007. The county with the highest unemployment in California was Imperial with 23.4 percent. The lowest was Marin with 5 percent. Nationwide, the unemployment rate rose from 6.5 to 6.7 percent in November. Department of Labor statistics released Friday reflect an increase to 7.2 percent for December. Locally, the impact is being felt in most if not all sectors, according to David Snyder, director of the Placer County Office of Economic Develop-ment. “In Auburn, we’ve seen in particular the car dealerships have been hit very hard,” Snyder said this week. In December, Auburn also saw the doors close at long-time Italian restaurant Pasquale T’s, which recently had moved from Highway 49 to Downtown. The eatery had more than 30 employees, owner Kimberley Worley said Tuesday. “Some of my chefs had been with us since sometime in 1980s,” she said. A lot of the serving staff had worked at the eatery for many years as well. “One (server) I can think of (worked there) since 1999, and another since 1988,” Worley said. Worley, an attorney, said she likely will return to practicing law — she has no plans to continue in the restaurant business. “We underwent lengthy and costly delays during the relocation process and then we’ve had ongoing building issues,” she said. “Those pretty much ate away at all the resources we could have had to withstand this economy.” Retail and construction have seen the biggest job losses, Snyder said. But some sectors actually brought on new employees. “There was a period in the fall with government and education adding a few jobs and certainly holding steady compared with construction and retail,” Snyder said. “Health services gained some jobs. We’ve seen jobs added, for example, at Roseville Women and Children’s Center and Sutter Auburn Faith has been adding some positions.” The real estate market, which earlier has seen a loss of jobs, also has stabilized, he said. “One of bright spots for the Auburn area has been all the investment along Highway 49,” Snyder said. “We took a little time to list the projects and add up public and private sector. It is more than $150 million in the last 18 months. Some of that is projects in the pipeline.” Snyder cited, as examples, Rock Creek Plaza, Auburn Plaza and the soon-to-open Home Depot. The figure also includes the road improvements to Highway 49. In a study commissioned by the Placer County Redevelop-ment Agency in 2007, the Berkeley-based Marie Jones Consulting firm identified some retail leakage. “In particular, it was in different market segments like building materials — now Home Depot has come into fill that void — and eating and drinking establishments as well,” Snyder said. “ … That is the sort of retail spending that currently resides in the Auburn area that’s going outside the area, down to South Placer, Sacramento, Nevada County and elsewhere. She also identified leakage in general merchandise and apparel.” The arrival of BevMo and Best Buy at Rock Creek Plaza has plugged some of that leakage. And some other big names are in discussion to come to Auburn, including talks with Trader Joe’s. “They’ve had a great deal of interest in Auburn for some time, but we have to wait until they make a decision one way or another,” Snyder said. And other businesses likely will soon call Auburn home. “When you see some of these announcements in coming weeks and months, some will go a long way to plugging those gaps,” Snyder said. He remains optimistic that more jobs will be being created this year in the Auburn area. “I see more hiring on Highway 49 — some larger-scale projects and some smaller-scale operations as well,” Snyder said about the outlook for the coming year. “I’m really not at liberty to say what those are. I don’t want to get out in front of developers and business owners. Some small and larger retailers are set to make announcements in the next several weeks and months. “The outlook, though not as positive as it could be, still has some bright spots. That’s where our concentration and focus will be in 2009.” Gloria Young can be reached at gloriay@goldcountrymedia.com.