More than 1M Californians without work for half a year in 2011

Californians have endured much-longer periods between jobs in recent years, the latest evidence of the depth of the recession and more specifically the hard-hit construction industry.

About 1,031,700 people in the state were jobless for more than 27 weeks in February 2011, compared to only 143,300 in May 2007, the six months before the official start of the Great Recession, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Almost half – or 46.1% — of Californians were labeled as long-term unemployed, or 27 consecutive weeks without work. It’s a dramatic increase from the 19.9% in December 2005, according to the state Employment Development Department.

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How difficult has the economy been for job seekers? Consider this – almost 40% of residents were without work for less than five weeks before June 2009, basically as they left one position they had little trouble finding work. Now, the long-term jobless have become the biggest category for job seekers, an about-face during the three-year period.

And the percentage of residents without work for 52 weeks – one year – reached 32% in December 2010, almost triple the 11.2% in December 2005, according to the state.

The construction industry’s dramatic decline is the primary reason for the larger-than-average number and percentage of long-term unemployed. The state peaked at 945,100 construction jobs in February 2006, but fell 42.5% to a record-low 543,200 in September 2010.

By the way, the long-term jobless figures –- those without work for 27 weeks — change somewhat by ethnicity at 42.1% for white job seekers and about 54% for African Americans and Asians.