California's jobless rate edges up slightly in August

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Pamphlets for employment with Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) are displayed during a job fair for veterans on September 14, 2010 in San Francisco, California. Dozens of unemployed veterans attended the one-day job fair hosted by Swords to Plowshares.

New data from the state out today show the unemployment rate in California climbed a hair last month. It was 12.3 percent in July and 12.4 percent in August.

California’s Employment Development Department says the number of non-farm jobs in the state fell by more than 33,000 in August. More than 2.25 million Californians were unemployed.

In the way-underemployed column is Laura Bolcik of Thousand Oaks, who spoke on her cell phone on her way to a day at the Los Angeles County Fair.

“I would rather be working, if I had a full-time job," Bolcik.

A full-time teaching job is what she wants — kindergarten to third grade, and in the Conejo Valley near her house. The 50-year-old mother of two graduated last year from Cal State Channel Islands with a teaching certificate.

"I knew that things were gonna be bad for teachers for a while, so I wasn’t surprised when I got out of school and I couldn’t get a job."

What has surprised Laura Bolcik is how the time away from the classroom has shaken her confidence. During her certification, she was a student-teacher and spent a lot of time with kids.

"So when you don’t have that experience, you start to doubt your ability. 'Can I even do it?' Truthfully, I think that your best chance of being hired is right out of school…when all of that is fresh," she said.

Laura Bolcik’s been substitute-teaching and trying to get to know people in the schools near her. Blindly applying for jobs, she figures, isn’t enough.

"Frankly I don’t’ think my story is anywhere near as sad as the story of the teacher who has worked for a number of years and has been laid off and can’t get a job."

At the county level, the August unemployment numbers were encouraging in some parts of the Southland. The unemployment rate jumped 0.2 in Los Angeles County, but it fell some last month in Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

Mike Hale is one of the managers at the Redlands Auto Plaza — that’s a Chrysler Dodge Jeep Mazda dealership that placed a want ad in the newspaper for three repair technicians.

"We’re in Redlands and I’m advertising in the LA Times, which kind of tells you something. There’s a lot of people out of work out there, but finding skilled people in these areas, it’s not easy," Hale said.

Two of the jobs he’s trying to fill call for a very specific set of skills — plus extensive experience fixing Chryslers or Mazdas.

"And the response has been pretty big. I’ve probably received half a dozen calls a day for the last week," he said. "Now, out of that half a dozen calls a day, how many of ’em are qualified? Uh, I’ve probably got two."

Hale says his dealership struggled for a year. But in the last three months, sales have picked up. That means more work in the dealership’s service department — especially if you have the skills to do the job.

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