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Friday, June 19, 2009

We're Getting Jobbed: San Francisco's Bleak Employment Picture Slightly Better Than State's 'Grapes of Wrath'-Like Totals

Posted By on Fri, Jun 19, 2009 at 11:59 AM

click to enlarge California's unemployment figures have gotten bad enough you are now allowed to mention the Joad family
  • California's unemployment figures have gotten bad enough you are now allowed to mention the Joad family
Hooray! It's that time of the month when the state's Employment Development Department releases its numbers about how much employment is not being developed. We're posting this article right now because the contents within are not suitable for reading after lunch.

In a bit of news akin to  your doctor telling you that "plenty of men live normally with this condition" -- i.e. it could be worse but it ain't good -- San Francisco's unemployment rate for May rose two-tenths of a percent to  9.1 percent. And yet, San Francisco was still green acres compared to the state on the whole, which features a whopping 11.2 percent unemployment rate (the state Employment Development Division's numbers don't quite jibe with the federal Department of Labor's, which report an 11.5 percent jobless rate).

Here were the big losers locally: Construction workers, who usually gain around 500 jobs between April and May, lost 1,300 positions; professional and business services also lost 1,300 jobs (not surprising considering the post-Tax Day drop-off); and 1,200 government workers, mostly on the federal level, were shown the door. 

San Francisco's 9.1 percent unemployment rate places it as one of just 11 of the state's 59 counties that doesn't feature double-digit jobless rates. Marin's rate of 7.5 percent is the state's lowest; Imperial County is by far the worst at 26.8 percent.

It appears job numbers have grown sufficiently bleak to the point where it's acceptable to mention the Joad family, the migrant protagonists of John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. Those familiar only with John Ford's 1940 cinematic classic might remember an upbeat ending, in which Ma Joad says "We'll go on forever, Pa, 'cause we're the people" after Tom Joad delivers his poignant signature speech:

Wherever there's a fight, so hungry people can eat, I'll be there.

Wherever there's a cop beatin' up a guy, I'll be there. I'll be in the

way guys yell when they're mad. I'll be in the way kids laugh when

they're hungry and they know supper's ready, and when the people are

eatin' the stuff they raise and livin' in the houses they build - I'll

be there, too.

To put it mildly, Steinbeck's tome concludes on a less positive note. Rose of Sharon's baby is delivered stillborn, and Pa Joad places it in a flooded ditch to serve as a harbinger of the brutality of life to luckier folks downstream. The teenager then offers her lactating breast to a starving stranger; you could call this a positive conclusion if forced to do so at bayonet point, but the more accurate description might be that this, too, was an indicator of life's burgeoning desperation.

It remains to be seen which ending the state is headed for now.

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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