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Economic two-step is getting old fast
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On the front page of Wednesday's paper, there was a story about an open house at a new business in town and right next to it was a report on the number of unemployed in the county, which increased to 15.6 in the month of January. Along with the not-so-great news of increased unemployment, was the announcement that Post is closing its Modesto plant and laying off 140 workers.

Sometimes it feels like the local economy takes one step forward, and two steps back. This feeling of economic frustration is exacerbated when I read stories like: "Hard to find good help: Carlsbad businesses struggle to find workers." This story recently ran in the Carlsbad Current-Argus newspaper in Carlsbad, NM.

"I was told by a manager for a restaurant here that 'In most places, a good employee is hard to find. However, here, any employee is hard to find,'" Carlsbad Department of Development Executive Director John Water told the Current-Argus.

New Mexico isn't the only place in America where there's still a land of opportunity. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Midland, Texas has an unemployment rate of only 3.4 percent. There are also jobs to be found in North Dakota, Vermont, Iowa, Utah, Montana, and even Hawaii.

I'm not endorsing an exodus out of California — like certain out-of-state governors have been doing with local dairy farmers. But if I was out of work for years, I might consider heading east where jobs are aplenty.

But there's also another side to our unemployment woes. While California sits atop the list of highest unemployment in the country, along with Rhode Island, other places in the world are on the brink of economic collapse.

In Greece, the unemployment rate was 26.4 for December 2012. The number of unemployed increased by 24.9 percent compared to December 2011.

Italy recorded an all-time high of unemployment in January at 11.7 percent, according to the country's national statistic institute. That number may not seem bad, but it only tells part of the story. The employment rate in Italy is 56.3 percent, which means only half of the population is working; and youth unemployment is at an all-time high of 38.7 percent.

In January, 97,000 jobs were lost from the month before, and 310,000 were lost compared to January 2012.

Riccardo La Barbera came to California from Italy last year as a student. He recently married an American, and will soon enter the local job force. La Barbera said that compared to Italy, Stanislaus County's job outlook is bright.

"It's a big problem," he said about the number of unemployed young people in Italy. "And another problem is if you find a job it's not secure. Everything is under the table.

"I was lucky because I had three jobs: soccer coach, private trainer and I was working at an elementary school. Out of the three jobs, I only had a contract at the elementary school."

Two of the soccer teams that La Barbera worked for failed and did not pay his salary.

"They still owe me 2,000 Euros. If a company or something fails, you have no way of getting money. Here, companies have to respect rules and you're more protected. The big difference I noticed some way people take care of other people more. In Italy right now it's like a jungle, you have to take care of yourself."