You may have heard that the California unemployment rate for March was reported to be 11.2 percent , an increase of 0.6 percentage points from February, exceeding even the peak unemployment rate of the 1981 recession (11 percent).

California may not have seen such a high monthly unemployment rate since the 1950s or even the 1940s. But recall that during the 1981 recession, which was relatively short, the unemployment rate stayed at or above 10 percent for 12 consecutive months.

But the picture gets even worse when you compare the job losses for this recession with the three previous recessions over the past 30 years. The chart below shows that California job losses (as a percentage of total nonfarm employment at the peak of the cycle) in this recession have been deeper and accelerated faster than during any of the previous recessions.

Since the start of this recession, only private education and health services, and the state and federal government sectors, have seen any job growth. The federal stimulus package should result in major increases in employment in all levels of government employment. Last month, in a small blip of good news, the information sector saw some growth. All else is gloom.

Some qualified good news: the rate of job loss is flagging somewhat. The number of jobs lost in March was about half the number of jobs lost in February, and was the lowest job loss month since last October. Unemployment statistics are a lagging indicator of the economic cycle, so this might ameliorate your despair somewhat.

No, I didn’t think so.