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California unemployment falls for 4th straight month in November

December 16, 2011 |  9:14 am

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California employers added 6,600 new jobs in November, driving the monthly unemployment rate down to 11.3%, its lowest level since the depths of the recession in June 2009.

The decline from October's jobless rate of 11.7% marked the fourth consecutive month that the Golden State has generated jobs as it gradually replaces some of the 1.3 million lost in the worst economic downturn in half a century, the California Employment Development Department reported.

The EDD also reported that it had revised upward to 37,600 the number of new jobs for October. In all, 211,400 jobs have been created this year, the EDD said.

California's unemployment rate, which far exceeds the national rate of 8.6% in November, has dropped by more than a percentage point from a high of 12.5% in December 2010.

While economists caution that some of the improvement in the November numbers could be caused by people giving up on job searches, they point to the last two weeks decline in the number of people putting in first-time claims for unemployment insurance benefits as a positive sign that a sustained recovery is underway.

The U.S. Department of Labor reported earlier this week that monthly requests for unemployment claims fell to their lowest level since 2008.

That guarded optimism is shared by Donald Whatley of Torrance, a furniture manufacturing production manager laid off in the spring. Whatley, 54, said he feels that the job climate is getting better, even though he's yet to be rehired.

"Just getting in the door is my problem," he said. "But I've seen the number of calls [from potential employers] turn around lately and, hopefully, something will turn up."

But the recent, more upbeat economic indicators could turn down again early next year if a partisan, divided Congress doesn't renew federal unemployment insurance benefits, the Obama administration and advocates for the unemployed warn.

The Department of Labor predicts that 230,000 out-of-work Californians would lose their benefits of a maximum of $450 a week by the end of January and 600,000 by the close of March if Congress takes no action. Unemployment insurance payments are a major stimulus for California's recovering economy, experts say.

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-- Marc Lifsher

Photo: Unemployed people check listings at a jobs center in El Centro. Credit: Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images.

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