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Unemployment in San Diego County reached 4.9 percent in December, breaking a five-month streak at 4.8 percent, according to numbers released today by the state’s Employment Development Department. The rate rose 1.2 percent from December 2006’s 3.7 percent.

The last time the rate was higher than 4.9 percent was in July 2004, according to the EDD.

In the same month, California’s rate was 5.9 percent, while the national rate was 4.8 percent. To address the economic challenges facing the country, President Bush today called for a $145 billion economic aid package that would issue a tax rebate of several hundred dollars to taxpayers.

I heard from Murtaza Baxamusa today, economist with the Center on Policy Initiatives, a liberal think tank focused on local issues. Baxamusa looked at the new EDD numbers and sent over a couple of interesting thoughts, especially in terms of lower-wage jobs.

There was a seasonal increase in retail trade, particularly department stores, which means the adjusted unemployment rate will be higher. …

One of the largest year-over increases in employment occurred in grocery stores (1,400 jobs) and other retail outlets (e.g. clothing stores).

This shows that as retail is replacing the hospitality industry in driving employment growth in the region, we continue to add low-wage jobs, while middle- and higher-wage jobs are lost.

Construction, unsurprisingly, suffered the biggest job loss in December compared to December 2006, according to the EDD’s release. Of the 4,100 net job loss, 46 percent of the decline was in building construction, while 41 percent of the loss was among specialty trade contractors and 12 percent was in civil engineering.

KELLY BENNETT

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