California's unemployment rate rose to 11.5 percent in May, the highest rate in modern record-keeping history, a state Employment Development Department spokesman said today.
A survey of households and businesses shows that the state's unemployment rate rose from 11.1 percent in April. It was at 6.8 percent in May 2008.
The 11.5 percent figure is the highest rate since the department started their current survey methods in 1976, according to spokesman Kevin Callori.
Using different calculations, the department estimated that California had unemployment rates of 11.7 percent in 1941, 14.7 percent in October 1940, and jobless rates of about 25 percent during the Great Depression, Callori said.
The most recent survey estimates that 177,000 jobs were lost in California during May, including 68,900 nonfarm payroll jobs.
The number of unemployed people in the state was about 2.1 million in May, up by 885,000 compared with a year ago.
Government posted the largest decline over the month, losing 14,200 jobs. Only educational and health services added jobs, gaining 2,100 positions.
Among the Bay Area's nine counties, Santa Clara County had the highest unemployment rate with 11.1 percent. Marin County had the lowest rate in the Bay Area, which was 7.5 percent.
The national unemployment rate also increased in May to 9.4 percent. California had the fifth highest rate in the nation, behind Michigan, Oregon, Rhode Island and South Carolina.
"When the world loses one-third of its wealth in 18 months, it is to be expected that historic levels of job losses will follow," Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said in a prepared statement today.
"Not surprisingly, we and our fellow states have seen unemployment numbers rise sharply during this difficult time," Schwarzenegger said. "A full recovery will not happen overnight - it will take time, which only further underscores the need to continue the economic stimulus measures I fought for in the February budget."