California unemployment rate holds at 12.5%


California’s unemployment rate held steady at 12.5% in February as effects of the recession dragged into 2010, the U.S. Department of Labor reported Friday.

That rate was the same as January’s, and was up from 10.2% one year ago.

The state’s jobs picture mirrored a similar flattening of the national rate at 9.7% for the first two months of the year.

Employers continued to be reluctant to expand their payrolls, economists said, despite signs of increased activity in retail sales, international trade and manufacturing.

The weakness was reflected in a related survey of households that showed that the Golden State lost 20,400 jobs during the month, reversing a 32,500-job uptick in January.

“Basically, what we have are indications that California is indeed growing, but employers are still reticent to hire for a number of reasons,” said Jerry Nickelsburg, a senior economist with the UCLA Anderson Forecast. “At the core of it, they are still waiting to ascertain that the recovery is taking hold before they commit resources.”

The Anderson forecast released this week predicted continued double-digit unemployment in California for the rest of this year.

That’s bad news for out-of-work people like Vernon Crowder, an economist and banker who was laid off 13 months ago and hasn’t found work since. “There’s definitely a lot more economists on the market as banks consolidate,” he said. “When there’s an opening, there’s a landslide of applications.”

While small, the professional sector -- which includes lawyers, accountants, architects and economists -- has been hard-hit by the recession, more so than in the previous economic downturn. An implosion of commercial and residential real estate and efforts by companies to control costs has meant less work for the professions.