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County jobless rate rises with ag shift

Reflecting a seasonal change in agricultural jobs as the local busy processing season wrapped up, San Benito County’s unemployment rate increased in December to 16 percent from 13 percent the month before.

The increase contrasted with California’s dropping jobless rate, which fell .2 percent to 11.1 percent in December, marking five straight months of declines.

December’s local numbers did reflect a decrease from the year before, when San Benito County’s unemployment rate was 19.4 percent.

Last month, the state gained about 10,700 new payroll jobs, the California Employment Development Department said.

At the same time, an earlier tally of 6,600 new jobs created in November was revised upward dramatically to 24,700. In all, the Golden State created 240,300 new jobs in 2012.

The new numbers suggest that California’s economy is gaining traction as it steadily replaces more of the 1.3 million jobs lost in the 2007-2009 recession.

The state unemployment rate was 12.5 percent at the end of 2010.

California’s unemployment rate, though improving, still remains one of the highest in the country and is considerably higher than the national rate of 8.5 percent for December.

“The recovery has legs,” said Howard Roth, chief economist at the California Department of Finance. “It’s steady, and I think it’s going to stick.”

The estimated number of employed people in California was just short of 16.2 million in December, an increase of 73,000 from November and up 320,000 from the employment total in December of last year.