Placer County's jobless rate creeps up to 10.2 percent

But for some fortunate workers, jobs in a tough market
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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AUBURN CA - While Placer County’s unemployment rate is remaining high, some workers are finding jobs in a tight marketplace with few openings. State Employment Development Department figures released Friday show the unemployment rate in Placer County increased marginally to 10.2 percent in February from 10.1 percent in January. Placer County’s jobless percentage reflected regional statistics for February. The Labor Market Information Division’s unemployment rate for the combined Placer, El Dorado-Yolo-Sacramento quad-county region was 11.4 percent. That’s up a point from 11.3 percent in January. Statewide, unemployment was unchanged at 10.9 percent last month. Nationally, the jobless rate was 8.3 percent, unchanged from January. Ceronix, a monitor maker in North Auburn, has bucked the economic trend, adding three jobs in the past several months to bring its work force to 28. Don Whitaker, principal at Ceronix, said he felt the business “got a little lucky” when recessionary times began to impact demand. Ceronix upgraded its product line and now is finding a significant market in replacing LCD screens at casinos and other businesses, he said. “They’re upgrading their older machines rather than buying new ones,” Whitaker said. For Brett Bruce, that shift in a down market has translated into a full-time job starting this past January. Bruce, a 2003 Placer High grad, said he was laid off from a machine shop job in 2009 and decided to go to school full-time. He found the Sierra College class in mechatronics a good fit for someone who likes working with his hands. In January, he learned from his instructor that Ceronix was looking for a technician and he was soon hired on after interviews. “I was just blown away by this business,” Bruce said, with a smile. “All my friends are jealous. They’re asking ‘Can you help me get a job?’” Tammy Zebroff was hired at Ceronix in June. For the previous six weeks, Zebroff was looking for work, with no immediate prospects and plenty of concerns. “I had been laid off after 11 years,” Zebroff said. “I was scared to death. Because of the economy, I was thinking that it would be a forever job search.” One day, Zebroff drove by Ceronix while on a shopping trip and admired the New Airport Road building. She was curious enough to look Ceronix up on Google and then bold enough to ask for a job. “I had a gut feeling,” Zebroff said. There was an opening on the assembly line and she was hired. Six months later, she was elevated to a job she had more experience in, working in shipping. Zebroff said she learned that job hunting is more than checking the Internet or the local newspaper. In her case, personal initiative paid off. “It got me in the door,” Zebroff said. “I was lucky. My advice is for people, when they go shopping, to look around. There’s occasionally a sign out. Or they may really like the place and want to apply.” The Employment Development Department is reporting that education and health services jobs continue to increase in the four-county Auburn region, with healthcare and social assistance up 3,400 jobs year to year. A total of 803,800 jobs were counted in February, an increase of 5,400 from January 2012. The four-county labor force figure, which counts residents employed inside and also outside the region, shows the number of people working in February was up 0.4 percent from January, to 918,300. The number of unemployed was 118,100, an increase of 1.2 percent from January.