Silicon Valley sees jobless rate rise as consumers cut back

Sacramento BeeJanuary 26, 2009 

SUNNYVALE, Calif. — In better times in Silicon Valley, a job offer like this would have been dismissed as a joke: two months' work, walking door to door for the Census Bureau, at a mere $22 an hour.

But nobody so much as snickered when census official Jim Kamenelis made a recruiting pitch recently at a workshop for 100 unemployed technology professionals here. More than half had already taken the bureau's entrance exam, according to a show of hands, and Kamenelis was mobbed during the break.

"When you haven't worked for several months . . . you take what's in front of you," said Jerry Childers, 47, an unemployed chemical engineer who has taken the exam.

The recession has finally caught up with Silicon Valley and much of the Bay Area. That's bad news for everyone.

The California state treasury is suffering because Silicon Valley residents, their stock portfolios shriveling, aren't producing their usual healthy jolt of income tax dollars. That's contributing significantly to California's $40 billion deficit.

Sacramento is hurting because it's being starved of the eastward migration — of people, jobs and wealth — that occurs when the Bay Area is healthy.

And the economy as a whole is feeling it because the Bay Area's troubles demonstrate just how broad and deep the recession is. The economy here escaped the worst of the housing market crash — but not the more recent slump in consumer spending. That's hitting the tech sector hard.

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