Toyota to close NUMMI factory in California, 20,000 jobs may be gone

Toyota Motor Corp.'s decision to shutter California's last auto plant will bring substantial economic harm to Northern California and the Central Valley.

Ending months of suspense, Toyota said Thursday it will close the NUMMI factory in Fremont in March, wiping out as many as 20,000 jobs throughout the state.

Almost half the plant's 4,500 workers commute from Stockton, Tracy and other Central Valley communities. In addition, thousands of workers build parts for NUMMI at factories in the Central Valley and elsewhere in California.

"An auto plant sends waves out when it closes, not just ripples," said Jeff Michael, an economist at the University of the Pacific. "For this to happen right at the time we expect the economy to be bottoming out … this is going to set back the recovery."

California's unemployment rate has risen to 11.9 percent, and much of the Central Valley has rates of 15 percent or higher. More than 120,000 factory jobs in California have disappeared in the past year.

Toyota's decision doesn't create a huge effect in a state as big as California, but is a blow nonetheless. "Certainly we don't need that," said Howard Roth, chief economist at the state Department of Finance.

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