LONG BEACH — Initial claims for unemployment insurance by the newly jobless in Pacific County were at their lowest level for that month in the past five years.

In a sign the local economy has bottomed out, there were only 272 filings for state unemployment help in December, compared to an average of 508 in the parior four Decembers.

The number of continuing claims by people who have been looking for work for longer periods was 408 in December, unchanged from November and compared to an average of 582 in the prior four Decembers.

Only 10 people exhausted their eligibility for unemployment coverage in December, down from 23 in November and an average of 16 in Decembers between 2007 and 2010.

The county’s official unemployment rate, a rough estimate based on statewide statistical models, was said by the Employment Security Department to be 11.9 percent in December, unchanged from November’s revised estimate and from the December 2010 rate. In December 2009, the rate was 12.9 percent. The state rate was 8.6 percent in December, up from 8.3 percent in November but down from 9.2 percent in December 2010.

The non-farm labor force — essentially the number of jobs in the county — was estimated to be 5,260 in December. This was a gain of about 220 from November and largely reflects the start of crab season. 

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