California Among Not-So-Fantastic 4

WASHINGTON -- California was one of four states that registered double-digit unemployment rates in January, a trend likely to be seen on the national level by year-end.

The U.S. Labor Department's report on state unemployment, released Wednesday, showed the increasing damage inflicted on workers and companies from a recession, now in its second year. Some economists now predict the U.S. unemployment rate will hit 10 percent by year-end, and peak at 11 percent or higher by the middle of 2010.

In December, only Michigan had a double-digit jobless rate. One month later, four states  -- California, South Carolina, Michigan and Rhode Island -- did and that doesn't count Puerto Rico, which saw its unemployment rate actually dip to 13 percent in January, from 13.5 percent in December.

California's unemployment rate jumped to 10.1 percent in January, from 8.7 percent in December, as jobs have disappeared in the construction, finance and retail industries.

Michigan's jobless rate jumped to 11.6 percent in January, the highest in the country. The second-highest jobless rate was South Carolina at 10.4 percent. Rhode Island was next at 10.3 percent, which marked an all-time high for the state in federal records dating to 1976. California rounded out the top four.

The U.S. unemployment rate, released last week, rose to 8.1 percent in February, the highest in more than 25 years.

Employers are laying off workers, holding hours down and freezing or cutting pay as the recession eats into sales and profits.

Disappearing jobs and evaporating wealth from tanking home values, 401(k)s and other investments have forced consumers to retrench, driving companies to shrink their work forces. It's a vicious cycle in which all the economy's problems feed on each other, worsening the downward spiral.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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